Academic Grants

Both blue skies and applied research can lead to new inventions. We have a broad range of funded research under both headings. Below are some representative examples of funded research.

A 'three-in-one' imaging facility for opaque soft matter

Job Thijssen

EPSRC, total £1.3M

Cryo-FIB-SEM-CT: a 'three-in-one' imaging facility for opaque soft matter.

A fundamental challenge in soft matter is to figure out the way in which their mesoscale building blocks (10 nm to 10 µm) are organised, and how such organisation changes in response to external forces. Most of such materials are opaque to light, so that optical microscopies of all kinds are limited to providing surface information. In some cases this may be sufficient, however the ability to look inside an opaque sample is an attractive prospect.  A major development in the last decades is cryogenic scanning electron microscopy (cryo-SEM). A native, wet soft sample is frozen in liquid nitrogen, using special techniques to ensure rapidity of cooling to preserve intricate microstructures.

The University of Edinburgh has been awarded EPSRC funding to purchase a cryo-SEM-FIB, to be housed in the School of Physics & Astronomy. FIB is a powerful technique that uses a focused beam of charged atoms (ions) to cut and section specimens very accurately inside the SEM. This not only allows the user to expose desired sections at will, but also to build up a complete 3D picture (literally) by imaging the sample section by section to a resolution of 10 nm (100 times the size of atoms). As a technique, cryo-SEM-FIB is so new that we know of only two current instruments in the UK, neither of which is dedicated to the study of soft matter.

The availability of this combined suite of instruments will transform the ability of soft matter scientists to see inside their samples routinely. A programme of outreach and training will make this facility available to academic and industrial researchers UK-wide.


Davide Marenduzzo

Large Scale Lattice Boltzmann for Biocolloidal Systems

EPSRC Research Software Engineer Fellowship

Oliver Henrich

Research Software Engineers (RSEs) are the experts who combine an in-depth knowledge of information technology with a background in scientific research. The last few years have seen an acceleration of interest in RSEs and the rapid growth of a newly emerging academic community. As first Research Council in the World EPSRC has launched a pioneering RSE Fellowship Scheme recognising the importance of reliable and efficient software for scientific research.

Formulating Value Chains from African Orphan Crops

Tiffany Wood

BBSRC Foundation Award from the Global Challenges Research Fund, £465K, bringing together formulation science, crop science and social sceince to develop value from African Orphan Crops.  Formulating Value Chains for African Orphan Crops is led by Dr Cesar Revoredo-Giha from SRUC, of which ECFP is a partner.  Researchers in ECFP are performing experiments  to identify ingredients that have promising physical characteristics for food manufacture e.g. stability, ease of extrusion and good texture, using flours from orphan crops rather than from staples such as wheat.

 Photo showing extrusion and forming during pasta production

Multiscale tuning of interfaces and surfaces for energy applications

Job Thijssen

EPSRC funded £2M grant led by Professor John Irvine of St. Andrews partnering with Birmingham, Edinburgh and Bath. 

Physics of Active Particle Suspensions

Wilson Poon

Advanced Grant, 2.5M euros, European Research Council (ERC), 2014-2019

Physics of Active Particle Suspensions (PHYSAPS) was awarded to Professor Wilson Poon to study new physics in suspensions of self-propelled particles at the colloidal length scale, both synthetic (e.g. Janus and other particles with surface heterogeneities) and natural (bacteria and other microorganisms).

RSE/BP Research Fellow

Job Thijssen

Materials Science for Enhanced Energy Storage and conversion

His research focuses on developing novel soft materials for use in the fabrication of the next generation of batteries and fuel cells.

US Army research office grant

Rosalind Allen

"Understanding nutrient-cycling microbial ecosystems"

We use a combination of experiments and theory to understand how microbial population dynamics impacts the behaviour of microbial ecosystems, using model microcosms made from pond sediment and water. A key aim is to design microbial communities which are optimised for bioremediation applications.

Young Investigator grant from the Human Frontiers Science Program

Rosalind Allen

"3D spatial structure in growing multicellular assemblies"

The formation of 3D spatial structures by growing populations of cells is a phenomenon that extends across biology. In this multidisciplinary, multinational project we are collaborating with groups in Denmark, USA and the UK to discover how the initial configuration of cells on a surface translates into a final 3D structure, and how this can be controlled.