Matthew Dickinson

Is doing more tests on piston rings

Favourite Thing: As I am an engineering scientist, there is nothing that I love more that to look at things that move. So many people forget, how much things that move use energy. I love to have an idea then calculate what I think will happen then simulate on the computer what will happen, then finally test what will happen for real. As I have dyslexia I don’t let it hold me back I just do it.



Blacko Primary School 1985-1990, St John Fisher & Thomas more High school 1990-1995


University of central Lancashire (UCLan) 2004-2008

Work History:

I have been working with companies such as Unison, Teer coatings, Balzers and NPL.



Current Job:

associate lecturer and PHD researcher

Me and my work

Piston ring power, making cars better and greener for the world to enjoy

When an engine begins operation the piston will move up and then down again, this is called reciprocation. Inside the engine (the chamber) the piston acts like a syringe, like what is seen at the doctor’s, but it is always pushing and pulling fuel and combustion gasses through it. In the engine the tube is known as the cylinder or bore. A plunger in a syringe needs rubber around the edge of the tube to get a good seal to top things dropping out of the bottom. The piston in the engine needs the same however because when the fuel combusts the temperature can reach 600 degree celsius the rubber would melt and therefore metal is used. These are known as piston rings. As the ring is forced up against the cylinder on the engine, the metal will grind down and this is where I come in I am investigating to find out if the piston ring can be made better with a nano-composite coating. This special coating means I take atoms from other materials and place them together to create new stronger coatings to relieve the wear on the piston ring; this is like a super material. By doing this, the engine will be able to produce more power and less harmful gasses to the environment.


My Typical Day

Teach students how to draw in 3D on the computer and in the lab simulating and testing my engine

I am a PHD student and also a University associate lecturer. A typical day for me at work is first I do my teaching, this subjects I teach are simulation and advanced computer aided design. In simulation we find out how long it takes for things to break, basically we can test on the computer how much force it will take to bend or snap a piece of metal and we also look at things moving like a piston, so we can find out how fast they move and what type of damage is caused when they move this fast. In advanced computer aided design we look at how to create a special type of 3D model called a surface, and we also learn to program the computer to do some of our drawings for us. When I finish my teaching it’s off to the lab, where I calculate and simulate the effects of the racing engine. Once I have finished on the computer I got to our engine lab to test samples on one of our racing engines. The samples that I get from the engine tests are then examined on a tool which checks the surface of the worn piston ring, then onto a tool which scans the surface for any pieces of the ring that could have been broken off when in the engine was working, and finally a tool that checks to see if any material has been passed from the cylinder to the piston ring.

What I'd do with the money

I would buy the materials I need to make a new test rig for my research, bringing my work to the class room

At the moment I am working a new theory that may change what we understand about piston rings and they way they behave. What I need to able to do is to build a test rig that looks like an engine. This will allow me to test the piston ring to find out what are the biggest influences to it as it operates. The money will allow me to buy all the materials I need to do this. Plus it will be awesome to prove my theory correct.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Expressive, eccentric and sporadic. In fact a bit of a Richard Hammond.

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Wow this is a tough one, favorite band has got to be Kasabian

What is the most fun thing you've done?

I have been on an upside down bungee jump, 0-60 in 1.2 seconds truly amazing

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

The first wish would be to able to move anywhere in time and in the universe, second being able to heal like wolverine and third to have x-ray vision. After all I don’t want to waste wishes on something that’s possible.

What did you want to be after you left school?

When I first left school I was still unsure, so I wanted to fly planes. But as I got a little older I began to wise up and then I knew what I wanted.

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

While in school I did get into trouble quite a bit, but in school I found out I had dyslexia and just used it as excuse not to do things. I began to think I was thick and was never going to be as good as the rest, until one day I learned that dyslexics tend to have a gift like no others and it’s simply just tapping into that gift to become whatever I wanted.

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

I have formed work collaboration with a formula 1 company. I have designed a mascot for the university and I worked at The Big Bang event for the past two years. Everyday just gets better and better.

Tell us a joke.

Whats the worlds fastest cake ? a scone