City life | By Matthew Little

City research is improving lives in the capital

Three research pieces from City featured in London Higher’s impact catalogue, a report celebrating the positive contributions that universities make to the UK and more specifically to London.


London Higher is a not-for-profit charity representing nearly 50 universities and higher education colleges, aiming to identify the opportunities and challenges of working in the capital. The catalogue was launched in December 2019 at the House of Lords, titled Impacting London – What London’s Universities do for London.

Sustainably protecting London’s skyline


As the financial, cultural and business capital of Europe, it is no surprise that London plays home to more skyscrapers than any other European City. However, these tall constructions are susceptible to wind-induced vibrations which can alter their lifespans.


To safeguard London’s buildings from stronger winds, Senior Lecturer in Structural Engineering, Dr Agathoklis Giaralis, suggests that skyscrapers should be built with the vibration-control devices found in Formula 1 cars. Currently, tall buildings use ‘tuned mass dampers’ (TMDs), which are large pendulums costing £3M and weighing up to 1,000 tons. They are placed at the top of a structure and absorb kinetic energy from the building’s movement, counteracting strong winds and earthquakes.


Dr Giaralis proposes that the current TMDs are combined with an inerter device which is found in suspension systems of Formula 1 cars and could reduce weight requirements by 70 per cent.


The inerter ensures drivers’ comfort and handling and could be used to reduce movement of buildings caused by heavy winds, enabling even more slender structures.

Improving the treatment of critically ill Londoners


Researchers at City’s Biomedical Research Centre have developed optical and fibre optic sensors that allow doctors to monitor the oxygenation of blood in specific organs or tissues within the body. The sensors can be applied through non-invasive or semi-invasive procedures to specific organs such as the oesophagus, bowel, liver and colon as well as the scalp in newborn babies, directly monitoring the wellbeing of certain organs, tissues and other parts of the body.


The research was created in partnership with NHS trusts including Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and is led by Professor Panicos Kyriacou and his team, with all sensors and instrumentation designed and fabricated at City’s Biomedical Research Centre.


Following clinical trials at the collaborating hospitals, the sensors have already benefited a large number of patients, including children and babies.

Fighting child obesity in the capital


Nearly 40 per cent of children aged 10 and 11 in London are classed as overweight or obese. In adulthood, London has higher rates of obesity compared to other global cities such as New York, Sydney, Paris and Madrid.


The rise of childhood obesity also shows a disparaging gap affecting poorer communities, where children from deprived backgrounds are more likely to grow up obese.


These are the challenges facing Professor Corinna Hawkes, Vice-Chair of Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan’s Child Obesity Task Force and Director of the Centre for Food Policy at City. The aim is to halve the percentage of children who are overweight at the start of primary school and obese at the end of school, to bridge the obesity gap between underprivileged and privileged communities by 2030.


On a national scale, the centre has produced research estimating that eight million people in the UK and one million in London are living in food poverty. Professor Martin Caraher, also from City’s Centre for Food Policy, highlights in a paper to an All Parliamentary Group on Food Poverty that surplus food given to food banks is not a way to address hunger or a person’s rights to nutritional food.