Research stories

Our researchers use their expertise to tackle problems close to home and around the world.

Watch our research videos for more on how our PhD students and academic staff are making an impact with their inspiring projects.

Cleaning up radioactive waste

© Sellafield LtdProfessor Neil Hyatt, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, has devised a new process to reduce volumes of radioactive waste. The breakthrough has significant cost-saving implications for the UK. And it could help with the clean-up operation at Fukushima.

Working with Sellafield Ltd, Neil's team found a way to mix plutonium-contaminated waste with blast furnace slag, turning it into glass-based product. This reduces its volume by 50–95 per cent.

"Neil's work has provided us with important evidence to support our baseline strategy towards a major investment in thermal treatment of plutonium-contaminated materials."

Mike James, Head of Technical, Sellafield Ltd


Reinvigorating politics

Professor Matt Flinders presenting a TEDx talk © David Clarke

Professor Matt Flinders' work on public engagement with politics has led to changes in the system. And it's transforming the way universities teach the subject.

Matt's contribution to a 2012 Liaison Committee review called for select committees to play a more hands-on role in promoting politics to the public. His evidence was so compelling, a new core task for select committees was introduced.

In the same year, Professor Flinders launched the first undergraduate course ever to be co-taught with the Houses of Parliament. The model has been rolled out to 14 UK universities and is now being adopted around the world.

"Parliament's Outreach Service is delighted to be working with the University of Sheffield on their exciting new module. It is one of the most innovative projects we have been involved with."

Naomi Kent, Parliamentary Outreach Service


Changing the landscape of urban regeneration

Professor Nigel Dunnett on site

Professor Nigel Dunnett is an artist. He brings that sensibility to his work, revitalising urban areas with planting that enhances air quality, reduces flooding and boosts biodiversity.

Our star landscape academic has won gold medals at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and some prestigious commissions including the South Bank Centre, Google UK’s new head office, and the Diamond Garden next to Buckingham Palace.

But this isn't about accolades. It’s about people, plants and better places to live. Nothing illustrates this ethos better than Nigel’s work with Professor James Hitchmough – a Sheffield colleague – on the Olympic park. Part of its rich legacy is to change the way the world thinks about urban regeneration.

"The wildflower meadows timed to flower around the Stadium are just one example of the painstakingly detailed and innovative work of the team of experts that have created the Olympic Park that will be enjoyed by spectators during the Games and for generations to come."

Lord Coe


Stem cell researchCloser to a cure for deafness

Researchers from our Department of Biomedical Sciences, led by Dr Marcelo Rivolta, have developed a method to turn human embryonic stem cells into ear sensory cells.

They transplanted these into a model of neuropathic deafness showing, for the first time, evidence of functional restoration. Their breakthrough could lead to a treatment for this form of hearing loss.

"The research we have funded at the University of Sheffield is tremendously encouraging and gives us real hope that it will be possible to fix the actual cause of some types of hearing loss in the future."

Dr Ralph Home, Head of Biomedical Research Action on Hearing Loss