Removal of hydrophobic fouling layers

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology


Hydrophobic semi-solid soiling layers are both widespread and problematic, as their hydrophobicity inhibits interactions between cleaning agents which are
readily soluble in aqueous solutions. An important example of these is the polymerised grease layers generated during the cooking of meats. The soils are
complex, as autoxidate polymerisation occurs alongside protein degradation. Understanding and quantifying the interaction of such soils with substrates
including metals, ceramics, glasses and polymers in the absence and presence of aqueous solutions is needed to develop quantitative models for removal.
The related field of removal of hydrophobic liquids is well developed, where the mechanisms include emulsification and roll-up, however the semi-solid
soiling layers are often viscoplastic, which limits the application of oily layer based approaches: minimum forces have to be exerted on these materials in
order to deform or detach them from a substrate. Detergents may soften the materials, or promote peeling, but hydraulic forces are needed to achieve this
removal. In this project I will develop and apply methods for visualising and quantifying the changes which accompany the removal of hydrophobic soft
solid layers. Specific objectives include (i) monitoring the ingress of agents which promote detachment of the layer, either by peeling or the formation of
blisters; (ii) relating the forces required to remove layers to the nature of the substrate, and the factors determining the timescale - are these controlled by
diffusion, pH, or other factors; (iii) determining the influence of layer composition, by controlled polymerisation of model soils. Strands (i) and (ii) will make
use of the techniques, particularly milimanipulation and fluid dynamic gauging, developed in the group in CEB.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509103/1 30/09/2015 30/03/2022
1677766 Studentship EP/N509103/1 01/01/2016 31/12/2019 Georgina Cuckston
Description The impact of different surfactant types on the break-down of adhesive bonds between a soil and substrate were investigated and quantified. A paper was published containing full details. 4 experimental techniques were developed to assess the interactions between soil, substrate and cleaning solution and a paper is underway showing the impact of combining findings from the four different monitoring methods.
Exploitation Route The techniques; millimanipulation, fluid dynamic gauging, oil mobility monitoring and solution analysis can be used by other projects to investigate the cleaning of different soils as well as the impact of changing cleaning solution on the cleaning ease and rate
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

Description Findings were communicated to the sponsor company and has been included in their established knowledge used when developing novel cleaning formulations.
First Year Of Impact 2020
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Economic

Description British Council China Newton Fund
Amount £6,600 (GBP)
Funding ID UK-275869816 
Organisation British Council 
Department British Council in China
Sector Public
Country China
Start 08/2017 
End 01/2018
Description Churchill College Conference Travel Grant
Amount £240 (GBP)
Organisation University of Cambridge 
Department Churchill College
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2018 
End 04/2018
Description IChemE Food & Drinks SIG Conference Bursary
Amount £250 (GBP)
Organisation IChemE 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2018 
End 04/2018
Title Sideways Fluid Dynamic Gauge 
Description A novel fluid dynamic gauging device set-up that allows for short-time data to be achieved. Details available in Tsai et al 2019. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact availability of hydration data in the study of cleaning food soils. 
Description Attended SIG meeting for Fluid Mechanics of Cleaning and Decontamination. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact 50 attendees from the Fluid Mechanics of Cleaning and Decontamination SIG group met to present and discuss progress on the topic of the Fluid Mechanics of Cleaning and Decontamination. Group activities and discussions took place.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description SIG Cleaning and Decontamination workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact 30 representatives from companies and academic groups attended at 2 day workshop to discuss advances in the field of cleaning and decontamination. PhD students (myself included) proposed one topic of difficulty for consultation with the group.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description University of Cambridge Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Research presentations were given within the Chemical Engineering department to fellow post-graduate students and researchers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017