Formulation and healthcare engineering
We have a strong track record in fundamental research into formulation science, product engineering and process modelling. Our particular strength lies in mechanistic analysis, multiscale modelling, material synthesis and characterisation, process optimisation and innovation for a wide range of formulated products.
A vast majority of chemical and consumer products are designed with complex formulations of multiple ingredients for specific functionality. These formulated products exist in various forms, such as particles, pastes, emulsions and thin films, and are manufactured in different industrial sectors including pharmaceuticals, fine chemicals (e.g. catalysts) and fast moving consumer goods.
The grand challenge associated with manufacture of formulated products lies in the development of science-based design space to ensure that the products have the desired attributes, and thus requires a thorough understanding of the feed material-process-product relationship. This theme targets this grand challenge using a holistic and multiscale approach.
We strive for developing science-based modelling and experimental approaches for designing and innovating formulations, processes and products for a healthy nation.
We develop science-based predictive models at a wide range of scales for designing and manufacturing formulated products and addressing emerging healthcare challenges.
We have a strong track in developing advanced numerical models using MD, DFT, LBM, coupled discrete element methods with computational fluid dynamics (DEM-CFD), DEM-LBM, and finite element modelling (FEM), data-driven models, machine learning, process modelling and optimisation. These advanced models are used to develop innovative formulated products and processes for energy application, pharmaceuticals, biopharmaceuticals and infectious disease.
We have been working closely with major global players in the pharmaceutical industry, such as AstraZeneca, MSD, Janssen and Genentech, and fast-moving consumer goods, such as Unilever and P&G. We developed physically thorough digital models for formulations development and product manufacturing, which are now capable of simulating the industrial scale manufacturing processes.
This research is supported by three EPSRC projects (EP/V003070/1, EP/M02976X and EP/N033876) and five EU FP7/H2020 grants, as well as several industrial projects. Our research is further enhanced with a recent €1.8m collaborative project on Pharma 4.0 with Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Ghent University, funded by the Agentschap voor Innoveren and Ondernemen (“VLAIO”), Belgium.
We have collaborated with a wide range of industries including food, pharmaceutical and mining companies to develop methods and analysis as well as modelling approaches to optimise processes such as milling, mixing, granulation, coating and compaction, as well as developing techniques for accurately quantifying powder flowability under low stress and high strain rate conditions, as well as for predicting powder flow behaviour during manufacturing processes.
This research is supported by one EPSRC project (EP/V003070/1), two EU H2020 projects, and several industrially funded projects.
- Research champion – Dimitrios Tsaoulidis
- Members – Natalie Belsey, Tao Chen, Judy Lee, Lian Liu, Charley Wu.
The pharmaceutical industry is going through rapid changes to keep up with the continuously growing challenges worldwide. The need to develop new medicines, the rising costumer expectations, and the issues on the supply chain management are some of the main drives that are transforming the pharmaceutical business.
Our research spans from bench-top research (mechanistic analysis, data-driven approaches and experimentation) to supply chain modelling and process integration. Currently, our researchers focus on the development of continuous manufacturing processes, applications of microfluidic platforms for drug production, point-of-care diagnostics, and numerical models, as well as digital twins for these processes.
Our aim is to develop cost-efficient and high-impact technologies to meet the demand for high quality and highly regulated pharmaceutical products, and fill the missing link between excellent product development and efficient commercialisation and distribution.
We are specialised in synthesising a range of nanocrystalline powders with superior thermochemical, electrical, and mechanical properties for various applications such as fuel cells, electrolysers, water treatment, microfluidic devices, etc.
We have recently developed a single step “green synthesis” route for preparing advanced polycrystalline solids and nanocomposite ceramics for hydrogen fuel cells and electrolysers. Our aim is to create low-cost and environmentally friendly materials for the next generation of highly efficient energy systems, water-treatment units, and heat-recovery devices.
Our patented water-splitting materials and device (US 2020/0115806 A1 and WO 2020/016580 A2) have received significant attention from world-class companies, such as Fluor, Air Products, Exxon, etc., for further development on a pilot-scale.
We also have a strong research track record in sonocrystallisation that utilises ultrasound generated cavitation to better induce and control crystal nucleation. We have unique and specialised equipment that allows us to induce sonocrystallisation using wide range of frequencies (22kHz - 2MHz), capture cavitation induced crystallisation using high speed camera and evaluate real time spatial distribution of cavitation activity by imaging sonoluminescene emissions from bubbles.
These are powerful tools that have enabled us to better understand and control sonocrystallisation in terms of crystal size and size distribution, polymorphs and yield, and improve crystallisation of difficult APIs. The work has attracted collaboration and funding with Pfizer, NPL and Royal Society (IES\R3\183199).
We pioneered the development of multiscale in-silico predictive tools for transdermal permeation, which are capable of predicting transdermal permeation and absorption without relying on fitting to experimental data. Most importantly, this provides an important alternative approach to animal testing.
We have also been working with a range of SMEs in cosmetic and medical device remit on novel topical formulations and delivery for skin care and wound healing. The tools are being used by Unilever to support fast screening of skin care actives and safety assurance, reducing the need for animal testing.
Our research enables non-animal, computer-aided design and risk assessment of topical drugs, personal care products, agrochemicals, environmental pollutants, etc. Our research in this area convinced the Cosmetics Europe that this is a unique approach, so funded us to participate in their model evaluation programme in 2017.
Our research in this area has received sustained funding from US FDA, European Crop Protection Association, Impact Acceleration/consultancy/Innovate UK projects with three SMEs (including Innovate UK grants 68200, 75251), Unilever, four BBSRC/NC3Rs studentships (BB/L502042/1; BB/P504415/1; BB/S50709X/1; NC/T001720/1) and EPSRC (EP/S021159).
Furthermore, in collaboration with NPL through joint employment and collaborative research projects, we developed a novel measurement technique for topical drug delivery using coherent Raman scattering and fluorescence microscopies, The US Food and Drug Administration have since identified this new approach as a non-invasive method to evaluate the bioavailability of a topically applied drug in the skin, and have funded further research through grant 1U01FD006533-01.
Our research facilities are primarily housed in two recently refurbished research laboratories: The Analytical Lab and the Particle Engineering Lab.
The Analytical Lab is equipped with a wide range of facilities for:
- High-temperature chamber and tube furnaces
- High energy ultrasound probes, etc.
Comprehensive electrical characterisation
- High-resolution potentiostat/galvanostat
- DC loads
- DC power supply
- High-resolution desktop multimeters, etc.
Physiochemical analysis equipment
- Gas pycnometer
- Raman spectroscopy analyser
- Particle size analyser
- Access to the comprehensive equipment such as FESEM, TEM, XRD, XPS analysers campus-wide.
SOFC cell construction and testing rigs
- Screen printer
- Tape caster
- Cell test fixture
- EIS analysis rig, etc.
Particle Engineering Lab
The Particle Engineering Lab is equipped with the following characterisation and processing equipment:
- Size and shape distribution; 0.5 – 30,000 μm (QicPic)
- Moisture content (Mettler Toledo).
- In situ nano-indentor (Alemnis)
- Nanosizer (NanoSight NS500).
- Conical mill (Erweka CM 60)
- Rotary cutting mill.
- Schulze RST.XS.s shear cell; 0.1 – 20 kPa
- Freeman FT4 Powder Rheometer; dynamic flowability, permeability, aeration
- Freeman Uniaxial Powder Tester; < 100 kPa
- Funnel flow testers (Granuflow, Flowdex)
- Custom-built die filling systems; linear (passive) and rotational (active).
- Temperature and humidity conditioning
- Roller compactors
- High speed camera (Phantom v1612)
- DEM and DEM-CFD simulation software: EDEM, Rocky DEM, BlazeDEM, ABAqus, Star-CCM
- Instron mechanical testing machines
- Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM).
- Franz diffusion cell
- Ultrasound reactors (22kHz-2MHz).
- July 2020 - May 2021, Pplus Ltd, "Skin penetration of collagen activated PRP components", £79,000
- January 2019 - December 2020, European Crop Protection Association, "Dermal absorption in vitro – assessment of study variability and harmonization", €78,000
- December 2018 - November 2020, Royal Society International Newton Fellowship (NIFnR1n181640), "Migration of pollutant particles in rivers: A multiscale approach", $103,000
- November 2017 - October 2019, European Commission H2020 (No. 747963), "DECRON: Development of eco-friendly ironmaking processes based on GPU-enhanced DEM modelling", $195,454
- October 2016 - June 2021, BBSRC, Industrial CASE scheme, "Multi-scale modelling of dermal absorption, disposition, systemic circulation and liver metabolism of xenobiotics", £93,000 (BBSRC) and £38,000 (Unilever)
- September 2016 - August 2020, EPSRC (EP/N033876), "A holistic framework for hybrid modelling of solid-liquid flows", this is part of a $1.9 million consortium with the University of Birmingham and Daresbury Laboratory, £337,000
- October 2015 - September 2019, EPSRC, EP/M02976X, "Discrete computational modelling of twin screw granulation", as part of a $1.5 million consortium with the Universities of Birmingham and Sheffield, £335,000
- August 2015 - January 2017, EPSRC, EP/M027066/1, "Designing nanoporous carbon materials as anode materials for sodium ion batteries", £100,000
- March 2015 - February 2017, Royal Society, "Modelling high-value manufacturing processes with small data", International Exchanges scheme, £11,000
- March 2015 - March 2016, Royal Academy of Engineering, "In-silico modelling of transdermal permeation", Industrial Fellowship, £29,000
- January 2015 - December 2017, National Physical Laboratory, "Quantifying the impact of dosimetry quality assurance on clinical outcomes of radiotherapy", £50,000
- May 2014 - April 2016, EC FP7-IEF, "ThermoPC: Thermomechanical modelling of powder compaction", €221 606
- October 2013 - September 2017, BBSRC and Unilever, "Modelling sub cellular molecular transfer and metabolic reaction in skin", Industrial CASE scheme, £94,000K (BBSRC) and £24,000 (Unilever)
- January 2013 - December 2016, EC FP7-ITN, "IPROCOM: The development of in silico process models for roll compaction", €3.8 million
- 2011 - 2015, funded by more than 20 multi-national mining companies, "P9 AMIRA project - the optimisation of mineral processing by modelling and simulation", the total funding is A$10.4 million and the funding for ore breakage characterisation theme is A$1 million
- Corning, "Characterising powder flow in dynamic processes"
- "CSIRO cluster project on preconcentration and agglomeration to enhance heap leaching of nickel laterite", the total funding for the cluster is $3.05 million and funding for Dr Liu’s team was A$310,000
- MSD, "Development of predictive models for manufacturing bilayer pharmaceutical tablets"
- H2FC SUPERGEN Hub, "Low cost carbon based catalyst for polymer membrane fuel cells", £100,000
- EPSRC IAA, "Novel formulations for effective and stable skin delivery of anti-aging nutrients"
- Unilever, "Wet granulation of milk blends"
- PhD project on the development of electrode formulation for sodium ion batteries
- Two BBSRC CASE PhD projects in the area of dermal absorption of topically delivered products
- EPSRC EngD project in modelling moisture migration in food materials.
- IFPRI, "Die filling of aerated fine powders"
- IFPRI, "Flowability assessment of weakly consolidated powders"
We collaborate with a wide range of industrial sectors as well as academic institutions worldwide.
- Ghent University
- Imperial College London
- Institute of Process Engineering (IPE)
- Kings College London
- National Physical Laboratory
- University College London (UCL)
- University of Queensland.
- Eli Lilly and company
- Freeman Technology
- International Fine Particle Research Institute (IFPRI)
- Janssen Pharmaceuticals
- Johnson Matthey
- Phytoceutical Ltd
- Pplus Products Ltd
Meet the team
Dr Michele Marigo
Visiting Senior Lecturer
Dr Mikio Sakai
Project: Multi-scale modelling of dermal absorption, disposition, systemic circulation and liver metabolism of xenobiotics
Project: A combined experimental and numerical study of powder flow through forced feeders in tableting systems
Francisco Fidelis Kisuka
Project: DEM modelling of heat generation induced by friction of low stresses
Project: Biofilm formation of Listeria monocytogenes on a novel triphasic viscoelastic food model and the application of a novel mild preservation technique; cold plasma
Samadhi Silva Silva
Project: Computational modelling of the effect of product formulations on skin penetration