Optical Coherence Tomography Picorheology

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Physics and Astronomy


A large range of materials are classified as 'soft matter'. These materials include biological samples (DNA, proteins, cells, food gels etc), but also many industrial products (soap powders, paints etc). The manner in which soft materials deform and flow when they experience an external force is a fascinating and varied area of scientific research, termed 'rheology'. We plan to build three new instruments to probe the rheology of soft materials. These instruments will allow us to explore the flow properties of minute amounts of biological sample (picolitres) over a huge range of times scales for both runny and more viscous fluids. Crucially the techniques are not harmful to the specimens and can be used on fragile medical samples such as blood clots. When pushed by an external force soft materials can resist the motion (shear thicken) or increasingly travel with the flow (shear thin). However recent studies have shown (in contrast with previous accepted wisdom) that the external forces are not experienced uniformly by specimens of soft materials. The extreme case is where an external force spontaneously gives a fluid that is uniform when stationary a dynamic banded microstructure. The sensitivity of our picorheometer to micron sized quantities of fluids is ideal for us to explore this dynamic banding phenomena in more detail, beyond that available in state of the art equipment (e.g. magnetic resonance imaging).


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Harvey M (2011) Optical coherence tomography velocimetry in controlled shear flow. in Physical review. E, Statistical, nonlinear, and soft matter physics

Description We developed a new method to probe the velocity of opaque fluids under flow.
Exploitation Route They could be used in a commerical apparatus (we patented the ideas involved).
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

Description They led to a UK patent and have led to additional funding (the use of OCT picorheology to probe complex fluid processing - a Unilever collaboration)
First Year Of Impact 2011
Sector Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Economic

Title Optical coherence tomography shear rheometry 
Description Designed a new instrument to measure the velocity of complex fluids in a rheometer. Both transparent and opaque complex fluids can be explored. 
IP Reference GB1013945.9 
Protection Patent granted
Year Protection Granted 2013
Licensed No
Impact Contacts have been made with the relevant industry.