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

EPSRC, total £1.3M

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

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.

Formulating Value Chains from African Orphan Crops

Photo showing extrusion and forming during pasta production

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.

Multiscale tuning of interfaces and surfaces for energy applications

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

Novel Characterisation Platform for Formulation Industry

Under ERC Proof of Concept funding, Professor Wilson Poon and Dr Vincent Martinez are working on developing a high-throughput tool for characterising particle size or gel properties for complex fluids such as formulations.  The company Solvay will work closely with the team to provide industrial samples of interest.

Physics of Active Particle Suspensions

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).

The physics of antibiotic resistance evolution in spatially-structured multicellular assemblies

Professor Rosalind Allen lead an ERC funded research programme which will, for the first time, uncover the two-way link between the emergence of spatial structure in bacterial multicellular assemblies and the evolution of drug resistance. The programme builds on her current theoretical, simulation and experimental work. She will first determine the basic principles of evolution in drug gradients using theoretical models, combined with experiments in a controlled, 1D geometry and then explore how these principles translate to the more realistic scenario of bacterial biofilms, where spatial structure and drug gradients are emergent properties, using advanced computer simulation methods and both confocal microscopy and evolution experiments. In the final part of the programme, she will use these insights to reveal optimization principles for the design of evolution-resistant surface coatings for applications in medical devices.

THREEDCELLPHYSICS: The physics of three dimensional chromosome and protein organisation within the cell

Under ERC funding, Professor Davide Marenduzzo, uses the tools of physics to gain a more quantitative and deeper understanding of the inner working of a cell. The aim of his research fits broadly in this new field, although the scale of the computational studies are thus far unprecedented. His programme focusses on the spatial organisation of DNA and chromosomes, proteins, and DNA-protein networks within the intracellular environment.  How is DNA organised in living cells, such as bacteria and eukaryotic nuclei? What is the role of proteins in DNA and chromosome folding in vivo? How does genome organisation differ in healthy and sick nuclei? How do proteins and RNA move around and self-organise into supramolecular structures in the crowded intracellular environment?