Professor James Windmill

Electronic and Electrical Engineering


Personal statement

I’m a Professor in Electronic and Electrical Engineering. I gained a PhD in magnetic microscopy from the University of Plymouth in 2002, and worked at the School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, from 2003 to 2008. I also hold a first degree in Electronic Engineering from the University of Plymouth.

I joined the University of Strathclyde as a lecturer in 2008. I was promoted to senior lecturer in 2011, reader in 2014, then professor in 2017. My research focuses on the investigation of hearing systems in insects to inspire the development of new acoustic and ultrasonic sensors and systems. I am also interested in sustainable engineering through the process of remanufacturing, the development of new biomedical sensors, and the use of ultrasound in manufacturing.

I am Director of the Centre for Ultrasonic Engineering at Strathclyde, and have featured in more than 100 publications. I’m also the Director of the Leverhulme Doctoral School in Nature Inspired Acoustics, and the Co-Director of the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Future Ultrasonic Engineering.

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Area of Expertise

  • Bioacoustics
  • Acoustic Engineering
  • Ultrasound
  • Microscopy

Prize And Awards

2023 IEEE Sensors Journal Best Paper Runner-Up Award
Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society (FRMS).

More prizes and awards

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Evolution of directional hearing in moths via conversion of bat detection devices to asymmetric pressure gradient receivers
Reid Andrew, Marin-Cudraz Thibaut, Windmill James F C, Greenfield Michael D
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Vol 113, pp. E7740-E7748 (2016)
The anti-bat strategy of ultrasound absorption : the wings of nocturnal moths (Bombycoidea: Saturniidae) absorb more ultrasound than the wings of diurnal moths (Chalcosiinae: Zygaenoidea: Zygaenidae)
Ntelezos Athanasios, Guarato Francesco, Windmill James FC
Biology Open Vol 6, pp. 109-117 (2017)
Mechanical specializations of insect ears
Windmill James F C, Jackson Joseph C
Insect Hearing (2016) (2016)
An analysis of end of life terminology in the carbon fiber reinforced plastic industry
Paterson David A P, Ijomah Winifred, Windmill James F C
International Journal of Sustainable Engineering Vol 9, pp. 130-140 (2016)
Distribution of sound pressure around a singing cricket : radiation pattern and asymmetry in the sound field
Chivers Benedict D, Jonsson Thorin, Jackson Joseph C, Kleinhappel Tanja K, Shivarova Nadezhda, Windmill James FC, Montealgre-Z Fernando
Bioacoustics Vol 25, pp. 161-176 (2016)
Unpicking the signal thread of the sector web spider Zygiella x-notata
Mortimer Beth, Holland Chris, Windmill James F C, Vollrath Fritz
Interface Vol 12 (2015)

More publications

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My teaching interests primarily focus on the theory and practical implementation of analogue electronics for the BEng and MEng courses in Electronic and Electrical Engineering. I also supervise a number of students in individual or group projects.

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Research Interests

My research is interdisciplinary, spanning from biology to engineering, physics, maths and biomedicine. The long term goal of my cross-disciplinary research is to translate the findings from fundamental research in biological sensory systems to inspire novel artificial sensor and transducer systems, primarily relating to acoustics, ultrasonics and non-destructive evaluation. Furthermore, I am interested in how engineering impacts on the environment, and I am actively involved in research into remanufacturing as a process for sustainable engineering. I was awarded a European Research Council Consolidator Grant at the end of 2013. This large grant provided me with long term funds to enable further development and capacity building of my research team in the area of Biologically Inspired Acoustic Systems. In 2024 I led an interdisciplinary team that was awarded a Leverhulme Trust Doctoral Scholarships grant, funding 18 4-year PhDs in Nature Inspired Acoustics.

Professional Activities

MicroTech 2016
International Conference on Remanufacturing 2015
Richard Richard Hofstetter
Michael Greenfield
Shira D. Gordon
Journal of Remanufacturing (Journal)

More professional activities


Novel directional microphone design for speech enhancement in complex environments
Windmill, James (Principal Investigator) Jackson, Joseph (Co-investigator) Uttamchandani, Deepak (Co-investigator)
"In the UK, more than 50% of people over 60 suffer from hearing loss, but only 20% of them actually use hearing aids. Part of this poor take-up is due to issues with current hearing aids, including poor sound quality and poor performance in noisy and complex environments. But one feature of hearing aids that does help people is a directional microphone, made-up from a combination of digital signal processing and two (at least) separate actual microphones. These can reject noises from the back or the side of the user. They help the user but come with severe problems. They add extra cost, weight, and power requirements. They have to be a certain distance apart, severely constricting the design of the hearing aid as a whole. And, with just two microphones accuracy is quite limited: they can tell whether a sound source is in front or behind, but struggle to detect sounds from below or above, such as echoes in a large room.

Despite remarkable advances in sound analysis in hearing aids, the actual microphone itself has remained essentially unchanged for decades. Here, we aim to solve the problems of current directional technology by instead using a new type of miniature directional microphone, inspired by how some insects tackle the problem of locating sounds. This new device retains its directionality while keeping the miniature dimensions similar to an insect ear. The research project will take the new insect-inspired microphone design and evaluate it as a component for hearing aids. From this initial evaluation, there will be an iterative process of new, improved, designs being simulated, fabricated, lab tested, and then evaluated. The end result will be microphones that can significantly solve the problems faced in hearing aid design.

The primary objective is to create a hearing aid system that can reduce or control unwanted noises, focusing the hearing aid on only the sound arriving from in front of the user. This includes reducing noises not only from behind, but above, below and distant, so for example reducing the problems caused by echoes from floors and ceilings. The research will also look at problems caused by the distance from which a sound emanates, for example how to separate a sound from a loud source far away, like a train or plane, from a quiet sound from nearby, like a human voice. Finally, the new microphones will require new mounting methods in hearing aid devices. The project will investigate using 3D printing techniques to achieve this. This allows the research to consider how to optimise the hearing aid housing so that it works best acoustically in conjunction with the new microphone, and how it might be possible to extend that to produce hearing aids that are personalised for both the user's ear and their user's sense of hearing."
01-Jan-2015 - 28-Jan-2019
The European Remanufacturing Network - coordinating and supporting European remanufacturers H2020 LEIT Nanotechnologies Advanced Materials and Production
Ijomah, Winifred (Principal Investigator) Windmill, James (Co-investigator)
The European Remanufacturing Network - coordinating and supporting European remanufacturers
01-Jan-2015 - 31-Jan-2017
Soft And Small: Acoustic Transducers Inspired By Nature - SASATIN (EU European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant)
Windmill, James (Principal Investigator)
EU European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant - Soft and Small: Acoustic Transducers Inspired by Nature - SASATIN
01-Jan-2014 - 31-Jan-2019
UK Research Centre In Non-Destructive Evaluation (RCNDE) 2014-2020
Gachagan, Anthony (Principal Investigator) Mulholland, Anthony (Co-investigator) O'Leary, Richard (Co-investigator) Windmill, James (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2014 - 31-Jan-2020
The Mechanics of Insect Audition: Characterisation, Modelling and Application
Windmill, James (Principal Investigator)
The sense of hearing is one of the most widespread across the different species of animals in the world. Animals use hearing in communication, to listen for danger and to help find lunch. The frequencies of sound used can vary an enormous amount, from very low frequency detection (infrasound) in fish, to the extremely high frequencies used by bats to echolocate and hunt for prey (ultrasound). Of course humans also have a sense of hearing, ranging from low frequencies up to about 20 kHz, although as we get older, our ability to hear higher frequencies degrades. However, through our own ingenuity humans have learned to generate, detect and use ultrasound (frequencies above our frequency range). We use this in many different applications, including medical imaging, cleaning, material analysis and non-destructive testing. It was only by creating such ultrasound devices that people discovered that bats were using ultrasound to identify and chase insects, and that many insects had ears tuned to listen out for the hunting bats to try and escape becoming a meal. Recently, engineers have started to examine the way bats use ultrasound. This is because the bats can achieve far greater resolution and sensitivity than any human built ultrasound system. The engineers hope to be able to improve their artificial systems by working out what techniques the bats employ. Whilst we know a lot about the ultrasound signals the bats use, we know comparatively little about the hearing systems of the bat's prey; the insects. Many studies have shown us which insects are sensitive to ultrasound, for example by looking at the insect's behaviour when ultrasound is played back to it. And from that, eardrum-like structures in ultrasound sensitive insects were discovered. The performance of some insect ears has also been described using various techniques, including very hi-tech solutions such as laser interferometry (where a laser is used to measure the motion of the insect's eardrum in response to sound). However, the actual mechanical operation of the structures within the ears of these insects, and so our understanding of how they receive ultrasound and translate that to vibrations the nerve cells can detect is very poor. This new research will use a combination of engineering approaches to understand how the ultrasound sensitive ears of insects work. The mechanical motions of different structures in the ears will be measured, with their size, shape and material properties characterised. To do this several techniques will be used including laser interferometry and atomic force microscopy (AFM). An AFM images surfaces by touch, rather than light. It uses a very small, atomically sharp, tip that is dragged, or tapped, across the surface of an object. A record is made of how much this tip goes up and down allowing us to make a surface image. AFM's can be sensitive enough to map the atoms on the surface of a material. As well as imaging, an AFM tip can be pushed into a surface, allowing us to measure how soft or hard it is. Using this technique it's possible to map the stiffness of a material down to nanometre scales. Once all this new information is collected it will be used to help create computer models of the ear structures. We can compare the models with the actual motions we measure, helping us to understand what is happening in the ear. From this, the models provide us with a tool to explore the capabilities of other eardrums, and further our understanding of the different ear capabilities relating to their size, sensitivity and dynamic range. Finally, the new knowledge from this research has broader applications. Looking back to the engineers working on bat ultrasound signals, this research will show us how the ears that have evolved to detect the bat's calls operate. It may then help engineers striving to improve artificial ultrasound sensor systems across many different fields such as medicine, material science and engineering.
26-Jan-2010 - 25-Jan-2013
New Imaging Systems for Advanced Non-Destructive Evaluation
Pierce, Gareth (Principal Investigator) Gachagan, Anthony (Co-investigator) Hayward, Gordon (Co-investigator) O'Leary, Richard (Co-investigator) Thayer, Peter (Co-investigator) Windmill, James (Co-investigator)
The science of non-destructive evaluation (NDE) involves the integrity testing and monitoring of components and structures to improve reliability and safety. It is therefore an essential activity to maintain the quality of life in any advanced society. Requirements for NDE exist in the supply chain for almost all industrial and consumer products, and an increasingly vital role for NDE is to assure the safe operation of ageing infrastructure (for example in both fossil fuel and nuclear power stations). As such, there exists an enormous application range, spanning the aerospace, nuclear, oil and gas, chemical, transport and building industries. While NDE is of critical strategic importance to all of these industrial sectors, it must be appreciated that for the end user, it represents an additional overhead and consequently, there is a continuous requirement to provide improved inspection at lower cost. Given the global demands of aging infrastructure, there is an urgent need for improved technology. The funding requested from EPSRC will assist the applicants in establishing an integrated research centre for NDE imaging technologies at Strathclyde University. Active areas of research will include: robotic vehicles in the form of autonomous, remote sensing agents (RSAs); new types of ultrasonic and electro-magnetic array transducers; biologically inspired array processing; new imaging technologies for microscale NDE and new methods for magnetic imaging. The equipment and support infrastructure (supported through The University of Strathclyde) will also be utilised to facilitate industrial technology transfer through a new model currently being implemented at Strathclyde and supported financially by Scottish Enterprise. An important strategic consequence of this vision will be the eventual creation of a dedicated laboratory containing state-of-the-art, multi-technology scanning equipment for rapid NDE of different structural components, ranging in size from microns to metres. Some of the required equipment is available commercially, but other components will need to be customised and the end product will constitute a globally unique range of research infrastructure. The laboratory will enhance and integrate research capability across a wide range of academic disciplines, spanning engineering, materials science, information technology and mathematics. It will also provide a prototype testing laboratory for some extremely important sectors of UK industry and will through time become a focus for applied research, thereby providing solutions for some very real and difficult problems.
01-Jan-2009 - 31-Jan-2013

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Professor James Windmill
Electronic and Electrical Engineering

Tel: 548 2694