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  • It should be possible to generate electricity and refrigerate simultaneously using low-grade waste heat from industry, according to research published in Progress in Industrial Ecology - An International Journal. The key is a system based on an ammonia-water mixture.

    Mechanical engineer Kolar Deepak of Vardhaman College of Engineering, in Hyderabad, India, has proposed a system that exploits thermodynamic phenomena encapsulated in the Kalina cycle to generate power and cool a system at the same time using evaporation and condensation of an ammonia-water working fluid. The system does mechanical work, which can drive a dynamo type device to generate electricity, while the refrigeration effect is produced by the working fluid from the turbine exit.

    Deepak's computations suggest a thermal efficiency of almost 20 percent at an operating temperature of 135 degrees Celsius, which is the sort of temperature for "waste" heat streams from industrial plants and gas turbine exhaust, as well as municipal incinerators, or renewable energy sources, including geothermal brine.

    Deepak, K. (2019) 'Aqua-ammonia-based thermally activated combined power and cooling system', Progress in Industrial Ecology – An International Journal, Vol. 13, No. 4, pp.332–341.
    DOI: 10.1504/PIE.2019.102844

  • In a world of growing educational and professional mobility, there is an urgent need, from an individual nation's perspective to reduce the potentially harmful effects of what is commonly referred to as the "brain drain". The brain drain refers to the loss of one's intellectuals and talented students and workers to another nation where they may benefit their adopted state, often never to return home to their place of birth.

    Writing in the International Journal of Education Economics and Development, Akira Shimada of the Faculty of Economics at Nagasaki University, Japan, discusses the policy challenges facing education in attempting to plug the brain drain. His findings suggest that among the developed nations, subsidizing salary can often reduce the loss of talent to foreign shores. But, this is generally not an option for cash-strapped establishments in a developing nation where the disparity between available home salary and the remuneration potential of working in a developed nation is enormous.

    One possible way to reduce the brain drain from developing nations and so retain the very talent that might allow the country to thrive is not to attempt to offer better working salaries but to improve education and the subsidizing thereof. Rewarding students for staying in their home nation to work could be implemented effectively whereas attempting to tax those who flow with the brain drain is largely untenable.

    "I found that education subsidies are an effective way for a developed country to reduce brain drain for any degree of human capital transferability although they are not effective for a developing country for a certain degree of human capital transferability," Shimada concludes.

    Shimada, A. (2019) 'The education policy challenge to the brain drain problem', Int. J. Education Economics and Development, Vol. 10, No. 4, pp.335–355.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJEED.2019.102740

  • Nilay Khare and Hema Dubey of the Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology, in Bhopal, India, discuss how Google's "PageRank" system can be used to detect spam web pages. That is pages created for nefarious purposes that attempt to gain a higher position in the search engine results pages (SERPs) through the false representation of their value and relevance to the person carrying out a search.

    PageRank was developed by Google's founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin back in 1996 at Stanford University, building on the foundations of other ranking algorithms that had been developed through the 1970s and onwards. PageRank works by counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine a rough estimate of how important the website is. The underlying assumption is that more important websites are likely to receive more links from other websites.

    Of course, the notion of "quality", good or bad, is rather ephemeral and so over the years since the rise of Google, there is an ongoing struggle between webmasters who would wish their sites to be high up in the SERPs and so more visible and Google which endeavours to preclude spammy tactics that might game its system and allow webmasters of lower quality sites to achieve unwarranted high status in the ranks.

    Khare and Dubey have developed an efficient and faster parallel PageRank algorithm that can harness the power of a computer's graphics processing units (GPUs). Their results show a speed enhancement in calculating PageRank and so finding spam pages of up to 1.7 times that of the conventional parallel PageRank algorithm. The team even suggests in its conclusion that their approach is "immune" to spammy websites.

    Khare, N. and Dubey, H. (2019) 'Fast parallel PageRank technique for detecting spam web pages', Int. J. Data Mining, Modelling and Management, Vol. 11, No. 4, pp.350–365.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJDMMM.2019.102720

  • Social media and student retention – Researchers in Egypt have investigated whether or not online social media can enhance student retention and reduce the dropout rate. Writing in the International Journal of Management in Education, Rania Mostafa of the Faculty of Commerce at Damanhour University, explains how she has used a Stimulus–Organism–Response framework to investigate.

    Mostafa quotes earlier research that suggests that there is fierce competition among universities worldwide to differentiate themselves and to boost their standing in the educational "marketplace". As such, there is pressure to retain students and reduce the number that drops out of a particular course. It is, she points out much more expensive to recruit a student than to retain one. Universities now use all "touch points" including social media to engage students and to enhance information sharing and self-expression which in turn can improve what the higher education establishment can offer students and so boost morale and reduce apathy and thus keep students on track.

    Her results indicate that information quality, privacy and security, and virtual interactivity influence perceived value in the context of the establishment's social media. However, student self-efficacy does not seem to moderate this perceive value. In other words, higher education establishments must ensure that their social media sites offer timely, accurate, relevant, and engaging information for their students and to evolve with student intentions.

    Mostafa, R.B. (2019) 'Does social media website really matter in enhancing student's retention intention? An application of Stimulus–Organism–Response framework', Int. J. Management in Education, Vol. 13, No. 4, pp.397–416.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJMIE.2019.102603

  • Family firms are as old as "Mom and Pop". But, there can be problems within such organisations and, according to research published in the International Journal of Business Continuity and Risk Management, specific personal motives, organisational opportunities and deviant behaviour can lead to white-collar crime. Indeed, there are plenty of opportunities, the research suggests, for family members to defraud their own firm, and thus their fellow family members.

    Petter Gottschalk and Cecilie Asting of the Department of Leadership and Organizational Behavior, at the BI Norwegian Business School, in Oslo, Norway, do not argue that white-collar crime is any more or less frequent in family firms than it is in "normal" companies. However, their evidence suggests that it can be easier for a family member within the organization to carry out subterfuge.

    The pair offers several possible solutions to the problem of white-collar crime in the family firm. For instance, family members should not have voting rights and privileges that allow them to carry out actions without the usual checks and balances that would be in place in other types of company.

    Moreover, there is also the obvious possibility of non-family members of the firm to defraud the business too, especially if remuneration and reward equity is lacking. The team suggests that non-family members of a family firm should expect fair pay and conditions and that they should be stimulated to identify with the business just as an employee of any other type of business might.

    Gottschalk, P. and Asting, C. (2019) 'The family firm as an arena for white-collar crime', Int. J. Business Continuity and Risk Management, Vol. 9, No. 4, pp.283–297.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJBCRM.2019.102594

  • Worldwide the number of drivers over the age of 65 is increasing rapidly. As such, there is an urgency in the need to design vehicles that are ergonomically suited to this demographic to accommodate physical ailments and limitations that are usually not seen in younger people.

    Research published in the International Journal of Vehicle Design, discusses the major ergonomic concerns of older drivers that might improve driving posture, improve attention, and decrease fatigue during driving. Ashish Dutta, A.K. Bhardwaj, and A.P.S. Rathore of the Malaviya National Institute of Technology, in Jaipur, India, have grouped ergonomic needs of older drivers into ten categories and then surveyed a number of such drivers. Three important factors emerged showing that concerns can be grouped into three areas: musculoskeletal factors, safety factors, and driver-vehicle interface factors.

    Various vehicle features emerge as becoming increasingly useful, or even essential, to older drivers who want to continue to use their vehicles for as long as possible: automatic transmission that precludes the need for a clutch and gearstick, braking assistance, parking sensors and camera, voice-assistant navigation, antiglare mirrors and windows, intuitive and easy to read controls and gauges, easy ingress and egress, adjustable, heated, and massaging seats, remote-controlled doors and boot (trunk), augmented reality (heads-up) display technology. Many such features are already present as options in high-end vehicles and it is anticipated that such options will become ubiquitous as the market for older drivers matures. Of course, ever-present, is a future of self-driving vehicles that will preclude the need for many such features, but never the need for a comfortable seat.

    Dutta, A., Bhardwaj, A.K. and Rathore, A.P.S. (2019) 'Ergonomic intervention in meeting the challenges of elderly drivers: identifying, prioritising and factorising the ergonomic attributes', Int. J. Vehicle Design, Vol. 79, Nos. 2/3, pp.168–189.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJVD.2019.102336

  • A case study of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the world of Scandinavian opera is discussed in the International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business. Staffan Albinsson of the Department of Economy and Society at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden contributes new knowledge on the entrepreneurial facets of opera production based on an in-depth study of a dozen SMEs.

    The research was based on structured questioning of initiators, artistic directors and general managers, the entrepreneurs involved in the operatic SMEs. Albinsson's analysis of the survey results shows that opera entrepreneurs follow the normal entrepreneurial processes in their endeavours. However, the work also shows that along the way there is huge variation in the choices made which influence the outcome in terms of mainly regarding the choice of repertoire and its subsequent staging. Albinsson reports.

    Intriguingly, while some of those involved in operatic SMEs had had some formal tuition in entrepreneurship or project management, for the most part, the skills necessary to run such an SME were simply acquired on the job, through trial-and-error experience. He offers seven main conclusions from the study.

    1. Most of the entrepreneurs described both business- and self-centred 'windows of opportunity' for the initiation of their enterprises
    2. All of them were mission- or purpose-driven
    3. Objectives were commonly described as bringing opera to the people or in unusual and/or intimate settings
    4. The entrepreneurs had divergent approaches to achieving their goals
    5. When aspiration and result differed, the entrepreneurs saw "artistic innovation" as being important through the process regardless
    6. The enterprises were all not-for-profit ventures, but economic success and growth allowed them all to put on even more ambitious and attractive performances
    7. The opera entrepreneurs regardless of setting generally followed the patterns of conventional entrepreneurial business.

    Albinsson, S. (2019) 'Sing it out loud! The entrepreneurship of SME opera enterprises in Scandinavia', Int. J. Entrepreneurship and Small Business, Vol. 37, No. 4, pp.449–471.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJESB.2019.101698

  • Blockchain is the technology that underpins cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. Fundamentally, the blockchain is simply a ledger, a digital record of transactions associated with a digital currency, a Bitcoin, for instance. It is an open system that does not require a trusted third party as all transactions are logged in an immutable distributed public ledger that requires no central repository of data, it is entirely decentralized.

    Veeramani Karthika and Suresh Jaganathan of the SSN College of Engineering, in Tamilnadu, India, discuss blockchain technology in the International Journal of Blockchains and Cryptocurrencies as well as its application in peer-to-peer (P2P) currencies, such as Bitcoin. A blockchain is list of records, known as blocks, that are linked and encrypted, once added a block cannot be changed or removed without destroying the blockchain. Each block carries a cryptographic "hash" of the previous block, a timestamp, and transaction data.

    The researchers point out that the blockchain concept has now gone way beyond the cryptocurrency paradigm and is used in electronic health records, government, utilities trading, and even in the world of arts, culture, and education. This is perhaps to be expected given its invention a decade ago by the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto.

    Karthika, V. and Jaganathan, S. (2019) 'A quick synopsis of blockchain technology', Int. J. Blockchains and Cryptocurrencies, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp.54–66
    DOI: 10.1504/IJBC.2019.101852

  • Lots of people like to listen to music at bedtime. With the advent of the portable music player and in-ear headphones, this phenomenon has become widespread. Of course, music can help improve our state of mind and perhaps even help those who suffer from insomnia to get to sleep. The downside is that once you have fallen asleep the music will keep playing and this might have detrimental effects on how deeply you sleep afterwards and perhaps even cause issues in terms of damage to hearing.

    Research published in the International Journal of Medical Engineering and Informatics offers a novel solution to defeating insomnia with music but without the risk to one's hearing. Shriram Vasudevan, Ikram Shah, Sriharsha Patallapalli, S. Karthikeyan, S. Subhash Chandran, and U. Adithya Bharadwaj of Amrita University, Coimbatore, India are the team behind the new approach. Their wearable, Fitbit, based system allows one to nod off while listening to music but once one has actually fallen asleep the music is muted. This team says means there should be no disturbance of normal sleep patterns caused by the music continuing to play and no risk to hearing.

    Fundamentally, their software monitors the data from the Fitbit and calculates when the person has most likely fallen to sleep so that the music can be muted without disturbing them. Of course, many sleepers set a timer on their music to switch it off within a few minutes or an hour or so, but that only has benefits if one has actually fallen asleep. The monitored approach means the music only stops once the user is fast asleep.

    Vasudevan, S.K., Shah, I., Patallapalli, S., Karthikeyan, S., Chandran, S.S. and Bharadwaj, U.A. (2019) 'An innovative technical solution to avoid insomnia and noise-induced hearing loss, Int. J. Medical Engineering and Informatics, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp.252–264.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJMEI.2019.101634

  • Materials scientists are always on the look out for new composites, materials comprising two or more different substances that combine to bring together the useful properties of each component and to overcome the limitations of any. Moreover, some composites might also work synergistically so that the useful properties of one component enhance those of the other and vice versa. Often, computation and modelling can be used to work out the likely outcomes of combining certain components.

    New research published in the International Journal of Computational Materials Science and Surface Engineering, reveals a mathematical model that can be used to optimize a novel composite for tensile strength. The composite is made from the synthetic polymer, polyester, and human hair as a reinforcing component.

    Divakara Rao and Udaya Kiran of the J.B. Institute of Engineering and Technology, in Hyderabad, and Eshwara Prasad of the Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University also in Hyderabad, prepared polymer-based composites using chopped fibres of human hair at between 5 and 25 per cent by weight and with fibre lengths of 10 to 50 millimetres. Data from tensile strength testing of these experimental composites were used to build a model that might then be used to optimize the formulation of new composites.

    Given the need for novel composites with new properties and a need to reduce our reliance on petrochemicals and invoke the use of renewable materials, brushing up on hair science in this context makes complete sense. There are, of course, many other natural fibres that might also be incorporated into semi-synthetic composites for a wide range of materials science and engineering applications.

    Rao, P.D., Kiran, C.U. and Prasad, K.E. (2019) 'Mathematical model and optimisation for tensile strength of human hair reinforced polyester composites', Int. J. Computational Materials Science and Surface Engineering, Vol. 8, No. 1, pp.76–88.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJ


New Editor for International Journal of Reasoning-based Intelligent Systems

Prof. Jair Minoro Abe from Paulista University in Brazil has been appointed to take over editorship of the International Journal of Reasoning-based Intelligent Systems.

New Editor for International Journal of International Journal of Postharvest Technology and Innovation

Prof. Abul Quasem Al-Amin from Universiti Tenaga Nasional in Malaysia has been appointed to take over editorship of the International Journal of Postharvest Technology and Innovation.

International Journal of Powertrains establishes biennial International Conference on Advanced Vehicle Powertrains

The editorial team of the International Journal of Powertrains has launched the biennial International Conference on Advanced Vehicle Powertrains (ICAVP). The conference's first edition (ICAVP2017) was hosted in 2017 by the Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, one of most beautiful cities In China. The second edition, ICAVP 2019, took place in August at the Hefei University of Technology, Heifei, China. In Hefei there are two cutting-edge areas of research: quantum communication for better future wireless communication, and nuclear fusion for electricity and clean energy. Both technologies will be critically beneficial for future zero-emission connected and autonomous vehicles.

ICAVP 2021 is planned to be held in at Beihang University, Beijing, China. The conference welcomes submissions from both academia and industry on solutions to both the latest and future challenges in the development of, but not limited to, advanced vehicle powertrains, new energy vehicular technology, and vehicular motive powers. More details will follow.

International Journal of Medical Engineering and Informatics increases issues

The International Journal of Medical Engineering and Informatics has announced that it will be increasing issues from four to six from 2020 onwards.

International Journal of Power Electronics increases issues

The International Journal of Power Electronics has announced that it will be increasing issues from four to eight from 2020 onwards.