EMFcomp - New ESA BIC Harwell Incubatee Interview

We spoke to Dr Richard Findlay and Tom Turner from EMFcomp (link opens in a new window), a recent addition to the ESA BIC Harwell, about how they are developing innovative human modelling techniques that will allow them to quantify the adverse health effects that can be caused by electromagnetic fields.



What is the service and how does it work?

Electromagnetic radiation is all around us. It consists of electromagnetic waves made up of both electric and magnetic fields. The radiation ranges from low frequency radio waves to high frequency cosmic gamma rays and these can damage the human body in different ways.

When subjected to high frequency radiation an individual’s temperature will increase. Continued heating can lead to heatstroke which, if you’re a telecoms engineer working at the top of an antenna, can be very dangerous.
At low frequency, commonly found in power stations and industrial welding machines, high currents and voltages induce currents in the body which can lead to confusion, headaches and nerve stimulation which presents a risk to employees.

Through a process of measurement and human modelling EMFcomp can calculate the absorption of these fields and so determine the hazard to the employees. Having identified the hazards present, human modelling can be used to determine areas that will experience high levels of radiation, such as the joints. Once established, they can help facilitate preventative measures such as protective clothing, moving the source and other shielding techniques. This helps businesses protect their employees and comply with government legislation.


What is the space connection?

In space astronauts are subjected to high frequency cosmic radiation that has a high enough energy to damage their DNA. The simulation codes developed by EMFcomp are based on models currently being used to calculate how much cosmic radiation an astronaut absorbs whilst in space, notably ESA’s MATROSHKA human model and NASA’s Computerized Anatomical Man (CAM) model. Back on Earth the focus of EMFcomp is to utilise these models in applications involving lower frequency, non-ionising radiation such as that emitted from telecommunication masts.


Who is the target audience?

The service provided by EMFcomp can be used in a variety of industries including automotive, welding, energy, telecommunications and medical applications. Depending on the industry requirement the service can be adapted to provide personalised treatment.

In the automotive industry the welders are less aware of electromagnetic fields and how they work so need to be educated about the health implications.
In the energy and telecoms sectors, the awareness is there and specific control procedures are used to measure the levels but there is little modelling on how it can affect us.
Currently the rules on electromagnetic radiation testing are at a guidance level but new legislation will soon ensure that all companies have to monitor their exposure to electromagnetic fields, broadening the target market.


How did you find out ESA BIC?

Formed in 2014, we have been based on the Harwell Campus for a while with an office at the Harwell Innovation Centre. We heard about the ESA BIC at a networking event and with the obvious space connection it seemed like the next logical step for EMFcomp. Moving from a diverse office to a community full of high tech, space related businesses should enable us to collaborate and bounce ideas of one another.


What do you hope to achieve at the ESA BIC Harwell?

During our time at the ESA BIC we hope to develop all areas of the business. The idea, the technology, the software and code all need advancing so the systems can become more user friendly. Once we have mapped these out we can apply the model to more applications and expand the business.

We hope to develop skill sets in other important but often forgotten areas of business too. Finance, marketing and sales skills, are often difficult to focus on in small office environments so workshops run by the ESA BIC will help the business develop as a whole.


The human model, MAXWEL, developed by EMFcomp

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