Advanced materials and nanotechnology

Research expertise

The University of Birmingham is extremely strong in the area of Advanced Materials. We have expertise which covers everything from materials synthesis, through analysis and characterisation in both nano and bulk functional materials. Much or this expertise is applicable to the analysis of composites, coatings, metals, ceramics and powders.

Applied research groups and initiatives:

IRC in Materials Processing - This group focuses on improving current materials, developing new materials and simultaneously to develop their processing and the influence of processing on microstructure and properties.

Manufacturing Technology Centre - The University is a key founding partner in the development of the £40M Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) at Ansty Park near Coventry.  The vision for the Centre is to become a world-class global research facility: “Making the Future” through transformational manufacturing technology development. The Centre currently focuses on 5 major technology themes:

  • Netshape Manufacturing (NSM)
  • High Integrity Fabrication
  • Intelligent Automation
  • Advanced Tooling and Fixturing
  • Computational Engineering

The Nanoscale Physics Research Laboratory - The NPRL is committed to the transfer of new concepts and technology from the research laboratory into industry, including our spin-out companies, creating opportunities for process innovation and sustainable economic development.

Science City Project - In collaboration with the University of Warwick the University has received an investment of over £20M in equipment and facilities to enhance its industrial research capability. The result is the development of one of Europe's leading research facilities in Advanced Materials with capabilities ranging from nano through to x-ray diffraction.

Case studies

Unilever UK - Optimisation of product formulations

Science City researchers at the University of Birmingham have been working with Unilever UK. Unilever is one of the world's leading suppliers of fast-moving consumer goods. Their three global divisions cover foods, home care and personal care. Within the personal care market, they are global leaders in products for skin cleansing, deodorants and antiperspirants.

Unilever employ 179,000 people in 100 countries worldwide and invest €1 billion every year on research and development.

Science City researchers have been working with Unilever to investigate the distribution of active ingredients for the application for personal hygiene products.

The work has made use of one of the many state-of-the-art pieces of equipment that has been made available as part of the Science City programme, a Confocal Raman Microscope. Raman microscopy, and in particular confocal microscopy, has very high spatial resolution and Raman imaging is a powerful technique for generating detailed chemical images based on a sample’s Raman spectrum.

Raman spectra were acquired using an infrared laser source together with two-dimensional maps of the distribution of product ingredients. A wide variety of Raman images were created which take the researcher well beyond what the eye can see.

This analysis has provided beneficial information for the future optimisation of effective product formulations.

The University of Birmingham has one of the largest concentrations of Chemical Engineering expertise in the UK, with an excellent reputation in learning, teaching and research. Its Chemical Engineering School is within the top five of the country. It combines global experts in their field, together with leading edge facilities and laboratories.

"Working with the researchers at University of Birmingham has been a real benefit to our business and their expertise is invaluable. We look forward to continuing this relationship…." Nick Ainger, Unilever R&D, UK


Richard Simpson 
Tel: +44 (0)121 414 9544