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.


  • 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


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.

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.

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.

Zancan, RF, Hadis, M, Burgess, D, Zhang, J, Di Maio, A, Tomson, P, Duarte, MAH & Camilleri, J 2021, 'A matched irrigation and obturation strategy for root canal therapy', Scientific Reports, vol. 11, no. 1, 4666 .

Li, N, Guo, R & Zhang, J 2021, 'Bioink formulations for bone tissue regeneration', Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology, vol. 9, 630488.

Avila-Sierra, A, Zhang, J & Fryer, P 2021, 'Effect of surface roughness and temperature on stainless steel - whey protein interfacial interactions under pasteurisation conditions', Journal of Food Engineering, vol. 301, 110542.,

Mears, M, Zhang, ZJ, Jackson, RCD, Si, Y, Bradford, TJB, Torkelson, JM & Geoghegan, M 2021, 'Lateral diffusion of single poly(ethylene oxide) chains on the surfaces of glassy and molten polymer films', Journal of Chemical Physics, vol. 154, no. 16, 164902.

Avila-Sierra, A, Huellemeier, HA, Zhang, ZJ, Heldman, DR & Fryer, PJ 2021, 'Molecular Understanding of Fouling Induction and Removal: Effect of the Interface Temperature on Milk Deposits', ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, vol. 13, no. 30, pp. 35506-35517.

Majerczak, K, Squillace, O, Shi, Z, Zhang, Z & Zhang, J 2021, 'Molecular diffusion in ternary poly(vinyl alcohol) solutions', Frontiers of Chemical Science and Engineering.

Burgess, D, Li, N, Rosik, N, Fryer, PJ, McRobbie, I, Zhang, H & Zhang, ZJ 2021, 'Surface-Grafted Poly(ionic liquid) that Lubricates in Both Non-polar and Polar Solvents', ACS Macro Letters, vol. 10, no. 7, pp. 907-913.

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