Professor Zhenyu Zhang PhD

Professor Zhenyu J Zhang

School of Chemical Engineering
Professor of Soft Matter Engineering

Contact details

School of Chemical Engineering
The University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Professor Zhang has a broad interest in understanding and modulating soft matter at surfaces and interfaces, which underpins the development of sustainable formulated products, new hygiene technologies, innovate healthcare technologies, intervention to improve air quality, and new routes for energy. He leads several national and international research consortia, supported by EPSRC and Horizon Europe, to understand antimicrobial effects so as to develop sustainable and effective surface hygiene technologies. He received two Industrial Fellowships, funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering, to work with Procter & Gamble (2020-2023) and DuPont Teijin Film (2018), respectively. His expertise in surface forces, e.g. adhesion, friction, contact mechanics, has been applied extensively in a wide range of soft matter applications such as biotribology.

Zhenyu Zhang is part of the Healthcare Technologies Institute (HTI), an interdisciplinary network of over 70 academics working together to advance new technologies and treatments that encourage better tissue healing and rehabilitation tools.  The HTI brings together leading experts from a variety of disciplines across the University of Birmingham, including chemical engineering, biomedical science, computer science, applied mathematics, chemistry and physics. Researchers across campus are working collaboratively to speed up the translation of new discoveries into health applications.


  • PhD in Polymer Physics, University of Sheffield, 2008
  • MSc (Distinction) in Polymer Science and Engineering, University of Birmingham and Aston University, 2004


• Foundation Year Chair
• Plant design


Having established a comprehensive suite of research capability in studying soft matter and interfaces, my current research interests are focused on addressing the fundamental grand challenges underpin Formulated Products sector and advancing Healthcare Technologies. Three of my current principal areas of activities are listed below.


Soft matter at surfaces and interfaces for Formulated Products

My research has focused on controlling soft matter, including polymer, surfactants, colloids, at surfaces and interfaces, which offers a powerful toolset for the industry to formulate products with improved performance, less environmental impact, enhanced sustainability.


Biomechanics and biomaterials for Healthcare Technologies

With the advanced characterisation techniques established in my group, I have been investigating surface characteristics of microbes and biomaterials. These studies advance the design and manufacturing of disruptive technologies to inhibit the surface transmission of microbes (virus, bacteria, and fungi), generate detailed understanding of cell envelope of bacteria so that effective antimicrobial strategies could be formed.


Multiscale tribology

Tribology has been a core element of my research for the past 15 years, and I have established an internationally recognised reputation in the tribology of soft materials. My research capabilities have evolved from nanoscopic tribological measurement to multiscale ones, which builds a unique strength in understanding macroscopic phenomena such as tactile perception, osteoarthritis.


Recent publications


Bistis, P, Cabedo, PA, Bakalis, S, Groombridge, M, Zhang, ZJ & Fryer, PJ 2024, 'Mechanical cleaning of food soil from a solid surface: A tribological perspective', Journal of Food Engineering, vol. 366, 111858.

Majerczak, K, Shi, Z, Zhang, Z & Zhang, ZJ 2023, 'Diffusion kinetics of molecular probe in thin poly(vinyl alcohol)-based films', Progress in Organic Coatings, vol. 185, 107833.

Avila-Sierra, A, Moreno, JA, Goode, K, Zhu, T, Fryer, PJ, Taylor, A & Zhang, ZJ 2023, 'Effects of structural and chemical properties of surface coatings on the adsorption characteristics of proteins', Surface and Coatings Technology, vol. 452, 129054.

Labarre, L, Squillace, O, Liu, Y, Fryer, PJ, Kaur, P, Whitaker, S, Marsh, JM & Zhang, ZJ 2023, 'Hair surface interactions against different chemical functional groups as a function of environment and hair condition', International Journal of Cosmetic Science, vol. 45, no. 2, pp. 224-235.

Simou, K, Pan, P, Li, Q, Jones, SW, Davis, E, Preece, J & Zhang, ZJ 2023, 'Nanoparticle formulation for intra-articular treatment of osteoarthritic joints', Biotribology, vol. 35-36, 100262.

Qi, S, Kiratzis, I, Adoni, P, Tuekprakhon, A, Hill, HJ, Stamataki, Z, Nabi, A, Waugh, D, Rodriguez, JR, Clarke, SM, Fryer, PJ & Zhang, ZJ 2023, 'Porous Cellulose Thin Films as Sustainable and Effective Antimicrobial Surface Coatings', ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, vol. 15, no. 17, pp. 20638-20648.

Magaway, E, Farahi, Y, Hanham, SM, Zhang, J, Guaidia-Moreno, A & Navarro-Cia, M 2023, 'Silica Nanoparticle-based Photoresin for THz High-Resolution 3D Microfabrication by Two-Photon Polymerization', IEEE Transactions on Terahertz Science and Technology, vol. 13, no. 4, pp. 415-418.

Majerczak, K, Manning, JRH, Shi, Z, Zhang, Z & Zhang, ZJ 2023, 'Surface wetting kinetics of water soluble organic film', Progress in Organic Coatings, vol. 177, 107436.

Milsom, A, Qi, S, Mishra, A, Berkemeier, T, Zhang, J & Pfrang, C 2023, 'Technical note: In situ measurements and modelling of the oxidation kinetics in films of a cooking aerosol proxy using a quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation monitoring (QCM-D)', Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, vol. 23, no. 19, pp. 10835–10843.

Kosmidis Papadimitriou, A, Qi, S, Squillace, O, Rosik, N, Bale, M, Fryer, P & Zhang, J 2022, 'Characteristics of respiratory microdroplet nuclei on common substrates', Interface Focus, vol. 12, no. 1, 20210044.

Simionesie, D, O’callaghan, G, Manning, JRH, Düren, T, Preece, JA, Evans, R & Zhang, ZJ 2022, 'Combined Experimental and Computational Study of Polycyclic Aromatic Compound Aggregation: The Impact of Solvent Composition', Polycyclic Aromatic Compounds, pp. 1-20.

Limiti, E, Mozetic, P, Giannitelli, SM, Pinelli, F, Han, X, Del Rio, D, Abbruzzese, F, Basoli, F, Rosanò, L, Scialla, S, Trombetta, M, Gigli, G, Zhang, ZJ, Mauri, E & Rainer, A 2022, 'Hyaluronic acid-polyethyleneimine nanogels for controlled drug delivery in cancer treatment', ACS Applied Nano Materials, vol. 5, no. 4, pp. 5544-5557.

Argentou, E, Amador, C, Brooker, ADM, Bakalis, S, Fryer, P & Zhang, J 2022, 'Modulating the surface and mechanical properties of textile by oil-in-water emulsion design', RSC Advances, vol. 12, no. 4, pp. 2160-2170.

Simou, K, Jones, SW, Davis, ET, Preece, J & Zhang, ZJ 2022, 'Rheological and interface adhesive properties of osteoarthritic synovial fluids', Biotribology, vol. 32, 100227.

Review article

Hill, R, Phipps, J, Greenwood, R, Skuse, D & Zhang, ZJ 2024, 'The effect of pre-treatment and process conditions on the gas barrier properties of fibrillated cellulose films and coatings: A review', Carbohydrate Polymers, vol. 337, 122085.

View all publications in research portal