Industrial Doctorate Centre: Formulation Engineering

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Chemical Engineering


This application requests funds to continue and develop the EngD in Formulation Engineering which has been supported by EPSRC since 2001. The EngD was developed in response to the needs of the modern process industries. Classical process engineering is concerned with processing materials, such as petrochemicals, which can be described in thermodynamic terms. However, modern process engineering is increasingly concerned with production of materials whose structure (micro- to nano- scale) and chemistry is complex and a function of the processing it has received. For optimal performance the process must be designed concurrently with the product, as to extract commercial value requires reliable and rapid scale-up. Examples include: foods, pharmaceuticals, paints, catalysts and fuel cell electrodes, structured ceramics, thin films, cosmetics, detergents and agrochemicals. In all of these, material formulation and microstructure controls the physical and chemical properties that are essential to its function. The Centre exploits the fact that the science within these industry sectors is common and built around designing processes to generate microstructure:(i) To optimise molecular delivery: for example, there is commonality between food, personal care and pharmaceuticals; in all of these sectors molecular delivery of actives is critical (in foods, to the stomach and GI tract, to the skin in personal care, throughout the body for the pharmaceutical industry);(ii) To control structure in-process: for example, fuel cell elements and catalysts require a structure which allows efficient passage of critical molecules over wide ranges of temperature and pressure; identical issues are faced in the manufacture of structured ceramics for investment casting;(iii) Using processes with appropriate scale and defined scale-up rules: the need is to create processes which can efficiently manufacture these products with minimal waste and changeover losses.The research issues that affect widely different industry sectors are thus the same: the need is to understand the processing that results in optimal nano- to microstructure and thus optimal effect. Products are either structured solids, soft solids or structured liquids, with properties that are highly process-dependent. To make these products efficiently requires combined understanding of their chemistry, processing and materials science. Research in this area has direct industrial benefits because of the sensitivity of the products to their processes of manufacture, and is of significant value to the UK as demonstrated by our current industry base, which includes a significant number of FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) companies in which product innovation is especially rapid and consumer focused. The need for, and the added value of, the EngD Centre is thus to bring together different industries and industry sectors to form a coherent underpinning research programme in Formulation Engineering. We have letters of support from 19 companies including (i) large companies who have already shown their support through multiple REs (including Unilever, P+G, Rolls Royce, Imerys, Johnson Matthey, Cadbury and Boots), (ii) companies new to the Centre who have been attracted by our research skills and industry base (including Bayer, Akzo Nobel, BASF, Fonterra (NZ), Bristol Myers Squibb and Pepsico).


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