Chemical Engineering PhD (Food, Health and Nutrition specialism)

The Food, Health and Nutrition group at Birmingham is the largest of its type in any UK academic engineering department (currently consisting of four members of staff, four post doctoral research fellows and 30 PhD and Engineering Doctoral students)

Research in food processing is carried out in partnership with key companies such as Nestlé, Unilever and Cadbury, and through visiting professorships.

The design of food processes and microstructures is a major research activity in the Chemical Engineering Department at the University of Birmingham. Within this theme we carry out research to provide underpinning support to the food industry and to drive research forward in the new areas that are demanded by consumers and policy makers eg, healthy foods that are convenient, safe and still fit into a normal diet or are even seen as indulgent (healthy indulgent) and the design of food processes with zero waste and thus lower environmental impact.

The group at Birmingham is the largest of its type in any UK academic engineering department (currently consisting of four members of staff, four post doctoral research fellows and 30 PhD and Engineering Doctoral students). Research in food processing is carried out in partnership with key companies such as Nestlé, Unilever and Cadbury, and through visiting professorships. Joint research takes place with food science departments at Nottingham, Leeds and Reading universities.

Current work is aimed at developing reaction engineering approaches to food processing, and incorporation of research on food flavour, texture and microbiology into fluid mechanical and thermal models for food processes. The long-term aim is to model product safety and quality, allowing minimal pilot plant trials of new products.

Current work (carried out in many of the science groups described elsewhere) includes:

  • Interaction between process history and product structure and flavour, including thermal and crystallisation events in chocolate tempering, and development of computer models for such processes
  • Online measurements of physical and quality parameters in biscuit baking
  • Models for structured foods
  • Flavour development in brewing processes
  • Surface fouling, cleaning and food hygiene, including models for bacterial growth in solids under transient thermal conditions and measurement of adhesion of biofilms to surfaces
  • Understanding of the role of chemistry and fluid mechanics in agglomeration and fouling of milk-based foods
  • Immobilised lipases for production of fatty acids and upgrading of oil quality
  • Computer modelling of safety and quality in flowing foods