Micromanipulation and Microencapsulation Research Group
Key staff: Zhibing Zhang, Mike Adams
Contact: Professor Zhibing Zhang
Research themes: There are many functional products containing biological and non-biological microscopic particles (or microparticles) over a wide range of industrial sectors including chemical, agrochemical, food and feed, pharmaceutical and medical, human care and household care.
For biological microparticles, understanding their mechanical properties under different physiological states is crucial to bioprocessing and tissue engineering, e.g. animal cell culture to produce monoclonal antibodies, mechanical disruption of yeast and bacteria to extract intracellular proteins, and mechanical stimulation of chondrocytes for cartilage tissue engineering.
Non-biological microparticles should have desirable chemical composition, structures and mechanical properties. Understanding the mechanical properties of such microparticles is essential to predicting their behaviour in manufacturing, handling and performance in end-use applications. Our research focuses on:
Microbial Bioprocessing Group
Key staff: Tim Overton, Mark Simmons, Gary Leeke, Owen Thomas
Contact: Dr Tim Overton
Research themes: Our research concerns molecular microbiology, cell biology, bioprocessing and environmental microbiology. We explore the bioprocessing of microbes to make proteins, small molecules and plastics as well as to enhance food safety.
These include biofilms (both their prevention and creation, e.g. for pharmaceutical production and industrial processes), the recovery of metals from batteries using microbes, and the production of recombinant proteins in bacterial hosts (e.g. in biological systems and E. coli).
We are also interested in green approaches to biopolymer production, bacterial responses during food and waste processing and microbial flow cytometry techniques. The group is involved in collaborations with the School of Biosciences, the Medical School and the Centre for Systems Biology.
Microstructure Engineering Research Group
Key staff: Ian Norton, Tom Mills, Fotis Spyropoulos, Eddie Pelan, Bettina Wolf
Contact: Professor Ian Norton
Research themes: Our research uses microstructural engineering to manipulate the underlying micro- and nano-scale properties of a wide range materials used in the food and nutrition, agrochemical and pharmaceutical industries.
It focuses on the development of novel techniques for encapsulation, food drying and additive manufacturing. It also seeks to develop environmentally friendly ingredients and processes, and to understand the relation between food structures, sensory perception and appetite.
Particle and Multiphase Process Group
Key staff: Peter Fryer, Ian Norton, Tim Overton, Mark Simmons, Jonathan Seville, Andy Ingram, Kit Windows-Yule, Mostafa Barigou, Bettina Wolf, Zhibing Zhang, Federico Alberini, Mike Adams, Daniele Vigolo
Contact: Peter Fryer
Research themes: The mixing and multiphase flow group carries out flow visualisation, mathematical modelling and computational fluid dynamics, focussed on the processing of complex and multiphase fluids. The group has access to optical imaging techniques including Particle Image Velocimetry and Planar Laser Induced Fluorescence.
We also work on Ghost Particle Velocimetry, a novel method of flow visualisation employing scattered light from nanoparticulate tracers. The group works closely with the Positron Imaging Centre in the School of Physics and Astronomy in the use of the Positron Emission Particle Tracking (PEPT) technique. PEPT was invented at the University and is a variant of the medical imaging technique positron emission tomography (PET) which is used in nuclear medicine. PEPT can be applied to the study of flows and measures of blending/mixing, amongst other many applications.
Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Formulation Engineering
Key staff: Peter Fryer, Richard Greenwood, Zhenyu Zhang, Federico Alberini, Owen Thomas, Mostafa Barigou, Ian Norton, Tom Mills, Fotis Spyropoulos, Eddie Pelan, Bettina Wolf, Mark Simmons, Gary Leeke, Tim Overton
Contact: Dr Richard Greenwood
Research themes: The EngD in Formulation Engineering is a four-year postgraduate programme of study and research, based mostly in industry. Formulation engineering concentrates on research into the physical, chemical and biological processes that create formulated product structure and the maintenance or breakdown of that structure in use.
Classical process engineering is concerned with the processing of simple chemicals on a bulk scale (e.g. petroleum products and intermediate bulk chemicals), the physical properties of which can be described using thermodynamics. However, modern processes are concerned with the creation and production of materials whose structure is complex for which the process history becomes important.
Examples of these materials include food, pharmaceutical and speciality products such as paints, catalyst supports, polymer films, cosmetics, detergents and agrochemicals, and our research focuses on understanding and controlling their material microstructures and the physical and chemical properties which are essential to their function.
Downstream Processing and Process Analytical Technology Group
Key staff: Owen Thomas, Tim Overton, Tim Dafforn
Contact: Professor Owen Thomas (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Research themes: Research in this group focuses on advancing radical new downstream processing (DSP) and process analytical technology (PAT) solutions to the growing challenges faced by the bio-manufacturing industries (esp. the biopharmaceutical, plasma fractionation, veterinary medicine, medico-diagnostics sectors).
Three elements – bespoke separation materials/chemicals, bioprocess engineering and PAT monitoring systems – are developed and harmoniously combined for the purposes of eliminating core problems afflicting the current manufacturing platforms of sophisticated of bioproducts (e.g. therapeutic proteins, plasmids, virus and virus-like particles, human cells and magnetosomes).
Work is done on advancing new:
- surfactant-free technology for the extraction and purification of membrane associated and periplasmic proteins (e.g. SMALPs);
- multi-functional stationary phases for use in direct capture from unclarified bioprocess feedstocks and in fixed-bed chromatography (employing smart polymers and physico-chemical fabrication methods applied chromatographic and magnetic support starting materials);
- automated multi-functional continuous bioseparation systems combining capture, concentration, purification and buffer exchange/formulation into a single-unit operation (e.g. expanded bed adsorption, high-gradient magnetic fishing, magnetic micellar aqueous two phase extraction, travelling cooling/heating zone chromatography); and
- high information content PAT for high-throughput formulation screening and process development and in-line flow through detectors for continuous chromatography systems.
The group conducts research in collaboration with the School of Biosciences, Aston University, University College London and Karlsruhe’s Institute of Technology.