Professor Ian Norton BA, DPhil, FRSC, FIChemE, FSB, CChem, CEng

Professor of Chemical Engineering

School of Chemical Engineering

Ian Norton

Contact details

School of Chemical Engineering
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT


  • BA Chemistry, University of York, 1977
  • DPhil in Fast Reaction Kinetics of Conformational Transitions in Polysaccharides. University of York, 1980


Prof Norton has recently left his role as Chief Scientist at Unilever to take a Chair as Professor of Soft Solid Microstructural Engineering in the Department of Chemical Engineering. Prof Norton doctorate was in the Physical Chemistry of polysaccharide conformational transitions were he focused on fast reaction kinetics and thermodynamics.

Once he joined industry he moved into the area of colloids and interfaces and developed a microstructure approach. This approach is were the material properties are designed by choosing the ingredients and the way they physically interact and then designing the process to physically structure and trap the microstructure in the desired state, see figure.


The material thus produced determines the material properties, can allow ingredient flexibility in terms of alternatives and replacement, and impact on consumer response ranging from what they are eating, their nutrition and health to what they use to clean their homes or groom themselves.

Professor Norton used this approach to design foods and home and personal care products for Unilever, resulting in a large number of new inventions (he is an inventor on more than 60 granted patents) leading to many new and innovative products, which are still sold today. In his new role at the University Professor Norton will continue this work and extend to a wider range of soft solids. Soft solids are used extensively in: Foods, Personal Care Products, Cosmetics, Paints, Pharmaceuticals, Home Care / Hard Surface cleaning and Laundry.

Professor Norton has authored more than 100 original refereed papers on the science and engineering of biopolymers, fat physical chemistry, kinetics, emulsions, rheology and material science and is an inventor on more than 60 granted patents covering ingredients, spreads, dressings, sauces, skin creams, shampoos and ice-cream.

Current research interests:

  • Emulsions/Emulsification
  • Interfacial design - chemical composition, material properties and rheology
  • Biopolymer solutions and gels - single systems and mixtures, processing control of structures
  • Physical chemical aspects of nutrition and health - in particular how food microstructure can be used to impact on food consumption and the dynamics of macronutrient release
  • Encapsulation and release - targeted delivery
  • Colloids at surfaces and bio-surfaces
  • Crystallisation / Control of crystal morphology and networks - by the chemistry and the processes
  • Material properties of soft solids (including rheology and fracture and flow)
  • In use properties - oral processing, skin applications, cooking, surface behaviour etc


Recent Publications and Patents.

  1. Pichot, R., Spyropoulos, F. & Norton, I.T. O/W emulsions stabilised by both low molecular weight surfactants and colloidal particles: The effect of surfactant type and concentration. Journal of Colloid and Interface Science In Press, Corrected Proof(2011).
  2. Pawlik, A., Cox, P.W. & Norton, I.T. Food grade duplex emulsions designed and stabilised with different osmotic pressures. Journal of Colloid and Interface Science In Press, Corrected Proof(2011).
  3. Mills, T., Spyropoulos, F., Norton, I.T. & Bakalis, S. Development of an in-vitro mouth model to quantify salt release from gels. Food Hydrocolloids 25, 107-113 (2011).
  4. Tharakan, A., Norton, I.T., Fryer, P.J. & Bakalis, S. Mass Transfer and Nutrient Absorption in a Simulated Model of Small Intestine. J. Food Sci. 75, E339-E346 (2010).
  5. Spyropoulos, F., Portsch, A. & Norton, I.T. Effect of sucrose on the phase and flow behaviour of polysaccharide/protein aqueous two-phase systems. Food Hydrocolloids 24, 217-226 (2010).
  6. Norton, J.E. & Norton, I.T. Designer colloids-towards healthy everyday foods? Soft Matter 6, 3735-3742 (2010).
  7. Le Reverend, B.J.D., Norton, I.T., Cox, P.W. & Spyropoulos, F. Colloidal aspects of eating. Current Opinion in Colloid & Interface Science 15, 84-89 (2010).
  8. Henry, J.V.L., Fryer, P.J., Frith, W.J. & Norton, I.T. The Influence of Phospholipids and Food Proteins on the Size and Stability of Model Sub-micron Emulsions. Food Hydrocolloids 24, 66 - 71 (2010).
  9. Gabriele, A., Spyropoulos, F. & Norton, I.T. A conceptual model for fluid gel lubrication. Soft Matter (2010).
  10. Frasch-Melnik, S., Spyropoulos, F. & Norton, I.T. W1/O/W2 double emulsions stabilised by fat crystals - Formulation, stability and salt release. Journal of Colloid and Interface Science 350, 178-185 (2010).
  11. Frasch-Melnik, S., Norton, I.T. & Spyropoulos, F. Fat-crystal stabilised w/o emulsions for controlled salt release. Journal of Food Engineering 98, 437-442 (2010).
  12. de Celis Alonso, B., et al. NMR relaxometry and rheology of ionic and acid alginate gels. Carbohydrate Polymers 82, 663-669 (2010).
  13. Brown, Z.K., Fryer, P.J., Norton, I.T. & Bridson, R.H. Drying of agar gels using supercritical carbon dioxide. J. Supercrit. Fluids 54, 89-95 (2010).
  14. Tchuenbou-Magaia, F.L., Norton, I.T. & Cox, P.W. Hydrophobins stabilised air-filled emulsions for the food industry. Food Hydrocolloids 23, 1877-1885 (2009).
  15. Pichot, R., Spyropoulos, F. & Norton, I.T. Mixed-emulsifier stabilised emulsions: Investigation of the effect of monoolein and hydrophilic silica particle mixtures on the stability against coalescence. Journal of Colloid and Interface Science 329, 284-291 (2009).
  16. Norton, I.T., Spyropoulos, F. & Cox, P.W. Effect of emulsifiers and fat crystals on shear induced droplet break-up, coalescence and phase inversion. Food Hydrocolloids 23, 1521-1526 (2009).
  17. Henry, J.V.L., Fryer, P.J., Frith, W.J. & Norton, I.T. Emulsification mechanism and storage instabilities of hydrocarbon-in-water sub-micron emulsions stabilised with Tweens (20 and 80), Brij 96v and sucrose monoesters. Journal of Colloid and Interface Science 338, 201-206 (2009).
  18. Gabriele, A., Spyropoulos, F. & Norton, I.T. Kinetic study of fluid gel formation and viscoelastic response with kappa-carrageenan. Food Hydrocolloids 23, 2054-2061 (2009).
  19. Spyropoulos, F., Frith, W.J., Norton, I.T., Wolf, B. & Pacek, A.W. Sheared aqueous two-phase biopolymer-surfactant mixtures. Food Hydrocolloids 22, 121-129 (2008).
  20. Spyropoulos, F., et al. Interfacial tension in aqueous biopolymer-surfactant mixtures. Journal of Colloid and Interface Science 317, 604-610 (2008).
  21. Norton, I.T., Spyropoulos, F. & Cox, P.W. Rheological control and understanding necessary to formulate healthy everyday foods. Annual Transactions of the Nordic Rheological Society 16(2008).
  22. Norton, I.T., Cox, P.W. & Spyropoulos, F. The role of hydrocolloids in the formation of healthy foods. in Gums and Stabilisers for the Food Industry, Vol. 14 293-305 (Royal Society of Chemistry, 2008).
  23. Henry, J.V., Frith, W.J., Fryer, P.J. & Norton, I.T. Kinetically Trapped Food Grade Nano-emulsions. Foods and Food Ingredients Journal, Japan 213, 192-196 (2008).
  24. Ding, P., Norton, I.T., Zhang, Z. & Pacek, A.W. Mechanical properties of gelatin-rich micro-particles. Journal of Food Engineering 86, 307-314 (2008).
  25. Brown, Z.K., Fryer, P.J., Norton, I.T., Bakalis, S. & Bridson, R.H. Drying of foods using supercritical carbon dioxide - Investigations with carrot. Innovative Food Science & Emerging Technologies 9, 280-289 (2008).

Recent Book Chapters

  1. Spyropoulos, F., Cox, P.W. & Norton, I.T. Immiscible liquid – liquid mixing. in FOOD MIXING - PRINCIPLES AND APPLICATIONS (ed. P.J.Cullen) (blackwell publishing, 2009).
  2. Foster, T.J. & Norton, I.T. Self-assembling structures in the GI tract. in Designing functional foods (eds. McClements, D.J. & Decker, E.) (Woodhead, 2009).
  3. Cox, P.W., Spyropoulos, F. & Norton, I.T. Effect of Processing on Biopolymer Interactions. in Modern Biopolymer Science: Bridging the Divide between Fundamental Treatise and Industrial Application (eds. Kasapas, S., Norton, I.T. & J.Ubbink) (Elsevier, 2009).
  4. Seville, J.P.K., Fryer, P.J. & Norton, I.T. Formulation of Structured Chemical Products. in Product Design and Engineering, Vol. 2 (eds. Brockel, U., Meier, W. & Wagner, G.) 701 - 713 (2007).
  5. Seville, J.P.K., Fryer, P.J. & Norton, I.T. Formulation of Structured Chemical Products. in Product Design and Engineering, Vol. 1 (eds. Brockel, U., Meier, W. & Wagner, G.) 121 - 129 (2007).

Selected Granted Patents

  1. Frith W.J., Norton I.T., and Wolf B., 'Fibre containing composition', no. EP1285588, (2003).
  2. Appelquist I.A.M., Brown C.R.T., Homan J.E., Jones M.G., Malone M.E., and Norton I.T., 'Low-fat food emulsions having controlled flavour release and processes therefor', no. EP1102548, (2001).
  3. Aronson M.P., Brown C.R.T., Chatfield R.J., Fairley P., Norton I.T., and Williams J.R., 'Detergent compositions', no. EP1066366, (2001).
  4. Aldred A., Appelqvist I.A.M., Brown C.R.T., Homan J.E., Jones M.G., Malone M.E., Norton I.T., and Underdown J., 'Frozen low-fat food emulsions and processes therefor', no. EP1102544, (2001).
  5. Bialek J.M., Jones M.G., and Norton I.T., 'Pourable edible aqueous-continuous emulsions', no. EP0994658, (2000).
  6. Grant E., Campbell I, Norton I., inventor. 'Stable coconut cream alternative', no. WO9819553, (1998).
  7. Brown C.R.T., Jones M.G., Norton I.T., and Underdown J., 'Aqueous dispersions with hydrolysed starch derivatives', no. WO9713413, (1997).
  8. Brown C.R.T., Daniels S.C., Jones M.G., Norton I.T., Rubow R.E., Kochakji D.J., and Buchanan M.A., 'Pourable salad dressing', no. EP0771151, (1997).
  9. Appelqvist I.A.M., Brown C.R.T., and Norton I.T., 'Liquid sauce or soup', no. EP0772406, (1997).
  10. Norton I.T. and Underdown J., 'Low fat spread', no. EP0753996, (1997).
  11. Livingston R.M. and Norton I.T., 'Edible spread with aqueous phase with non-gelling thickener system and low protein content', no. US5656322, (1997).
  12. Norton I.T., Kelly T.R., and Underdown J., 'Spread', no. EP0420315, (1991).
  13. Norton I.T., 'Water-in-oil dispersion and process for preparing such dispersion', no. EP0398412, (1990).
  14. Cain F.W., Day M.J.I., Jones M.G., and Norton I.T., 'Edible plastified dispersion', no. EP0279499, (1988).

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