We are engaged in internationally leading materials processing and forming research addressing some of the global manufacturing and healthcare challenges. External research sponsors include the UK Research Councils (mainly EPSRC), Orthopaedic Research UK, The Royal Society, The Wolfson Foundation, The Leverhulme Trust, The Islamic Development Bank, The Danish Agency for Science, Technology & Innovation, The Worshipful Company of Armourers and Brasiers, The British Council and several industries. We enjoy close ties with the Healthy Infrastructure Research Group of UCL Department of Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering and the UCL School of Pharmacy with whom we have a special relationship.
We cherish several national and international external research collaborations, in particular with Oxford University, Cambridge University, Queen Mary University of London, University of Hertfordshire, University of Sheffield, Queens University of Belfast and universities in the USA (in particular Kansas, North Dakota and North Carolina), Turkey (in particular Hacettepe University and Marmara University), Italy (in particular Padua University), Holland, China (in particular China University of Geosciences, Beijing, Dalian and Sichuan), Japan (National Institute for Materials Science, Ibaraki) and India (IIT Gandhinagar). We work very closely with UCL Business and industry.
The group, (about a dozen in total) and laboratory specialises in creating smart coatings, smart fibres, bubbles, vesicles, droplets, particles, capsules using a variety of new devices/processes invented in our laboratory. We specialise in soft matter and have patented these inventions, the work has also led to UCL-Business spin-off company AtoCap Ltd.
1: Exploration of Gyration Techniques
The creation of a family of novel gyratory forming methods for polymeric fibres and microbubbles with industrially attractive yields gaining huge manufacturing advancement in key areas such as antimicrobial resistance, tissue engineering has generated significant impact, with three EPSRC responsive mode grants worth £1.5 million awarded in the last five years. Pressurised gyration was patented and featured on the front cover of Macromolecular Rapid Communications in July 2013 and to-date nearly over 200 citations. This process which can also create microbubbles (see front cover of Langmuir) was supported by BASF and bio-pharma companies (e.g. Astra Zeneca) and an EPSRC manufacturing research grant. It generated substantial international interest particularly in USA and China. This has subsequently led to the creation of many other gyration-based sister-processes which have also won many front covers in leading journals:
Enormous industrial interest has been aroused to win a large industrially-backed EPSRC healthcare grant which investigated the manufacture of a new generation of antimicrobial filters for healthcare. The gyratory fibre-mats are also proving to be very successful in the development of tampons for vaginal drug delivery and in the development of artificial bone marrow fibre scaffolds. Gyratory forming is being extended to include graphene, wound healing bandages and a variety of drug delivery patches combining antibiotics and nanoparticles. In a very recent (December, 2018) development, we were awarded an EPSRC grant to extend pressurised gyratory manufacturing to core-sheath morphologies. In September 2018, we published and invited feature article on the development of pressurised gyration for the last five years (since it's invention) and this is featured in Advanced Science News. This paper has achieved nearly 100 citations to date. The core-sheath project is still in progress with BASF and Xiros, it has created new devices and been the focus of much media attention. We are extending its capabilities to antiviral mask manufacture to join the anti-Covid-19 battle, supported by the Royal Academy of Engineering. This has gathered an interest in Covid-19 causing variants, see review in IF 17 Advanced Science. This work has led to extra funding from the Government of Kuwait, which has resulted in two key papers in IF 19 Applied Physics Reviews, see paper 1 and paper 2.
2: Multi-layered Microbubbles, Particles and Fibres
We are also the first in the world to make 4-layered particles and fibres as featured on a journal front cover and the particles are being trialled to treat UTI in new ways as featured on another journal front-cover (see below). It is also being exploited commercially to treat urinary tract infections and a commercial product (CapFuran) is being manufactured externally (transferred from our laboratory), ready to initiate clinical trials. We were invited by Langmuir to review the progress in making and using microbubbles and new research into the exploitation of microbubbles is also in progress in collaboration with Turkey, India and Finland/Japan. This had led to a special issue of Langmuir on Microbubbles: A New Medical Frontier. We are seeking processes that can be commercially exploited and patents on new processes are being filed by UCL Business.
3: Portable Electrohydrodynamic Gun-Device
In collaboration with UCL School of Pharmacy and industry, we are also developing a new portable electrohydrodynamic gun-device to deposit wound dressings and drug delivery vehicles/patches. This initiative originates from our previous work (watch video below) and has received substantial EPSRC funding. The aim is to miniaturise the "EHD Gun" to a device in a paramedic backpack.
We are also working on another set of projects with Professor Anthony Harker and Professor Yiannis Ventikos (on modelling our processes and inventing related but new approaches). A new collaboration with internationally leading clinician Prof Shervanthi Homer-Vanniasinkam has been successful and is expanding. We are also seeking combined and more efficient industry-backed manufacturing processes and early work to seek funding has already begun. For example, Jubair Ahmed is leading efforts to combine gyratory and electrohydrodynamic processes to make healthcare bandages with robotic control, in collaboration with Prof. Helge Wurdemann and Prof. Shervanthi Homer-Vanniasinkam.