Molecular Systems and Biomaterials

Key Facts

17 Academics
18 PDRAs
47 PhD Students

Selected funding

EPSRC ≈ £6M,
Solvay ≈ £1.1M,
PeMex ≈ £650k,
Philip Leverhulme Prize ≈ £70k.

Work with

BP, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Solvay, Tate.


This theme has a cross-disciplinary approach to molecular level engineering, spanning complexity levels from small-molecule organic crystals to biological systems, and integrating predictive molecular modelling.

Molecular materials are key components in virtually all products of major signficance in modern developed societies - ranging from the purified fuels and petrochemicals derived from oil and gas processing all the way through to products with the highest complexity, such as foods and living biological organisms. More >>

Research areas

  • Nanomaterials and nanostructured surfaces

    Research involves developing novel materials and examining their uses in a range of processes including catalysis, ion exchange, filtration, fuel cells, drug delivery, medical diagnostics and implantation. Nanostructuring of thin films grown by atmospheric pressure chemical vapour deposition is also studied, while UV and femtosecond laser irradiation of polymers are used to create refractive index structures and gratings for new sensors and devices. Laser diagnostics combined with computational fluid dynamics and chemical kinetics modelling are used to analyse and control processes.

    Please contact one of the following academic staff for further details of current research activity: Xiaolei Fan, Philip Martin, Sven Schroeder.

  • Complex chemical and biological systems

    The characteristics of complex chemical and biological systems arises out of a multiplicity of simple chemical and physical interactions between molecules. Members of this research group seek to elucidate the relationship between molecular interactions and the emergence of systems behaviour, with the aim to target and control complex systems ranging from industrial product formulations, to biological cells and even whole organisms. The research draws equally on process engineering models, on modern analytical chemistry, on molecular as well as systems modelling, and on the application of biological and biochemical techniques. Data analysis draws strongly on non-linear and statistical modelling approaches.

    Please contact one of the following academic staff for further details of current research activity: Hans Westerhoff, Ferda Mavituna, Sven Schroeder, Jacob Snoep, Xue-feng Yuan.

  • Crystals, colloids, interfaces and catalysis

    Research in this group seeks to elucidate the molecular level properties of interfaces that underpin so man technological processes of central economic importance, such as catalysis, adsorption, crystallisation and consumer product formulation. For example, members of the group study the nucleation and growth of molecular and liquid crystals from fluid phases, with particular interest in the molecular assembly processes that drive crystal nucleation and the possibility of controlling crystal structure (polymorphism). Heterogeneous catalysts for upgrading renewable resources to chemicals suitable for processing in existing industrial platforms are developed, and catalytic flow contactors for waste- and drinking water treatment are investigated. This work has direct relevance both to process design and product formulation of drugs, agrochemicals and foods. The research encompasses both experimental and computational modelling, and considers length scales from atoms/molecules to macroscopic products, and timescales from atomic and molecular excitations to shelf lives of products.

    Please contact one of the following academic staff for further details of current research activity: Roger Davey, Sven Schroeder, Xiaolei Fan, Carlos Avendano jimenez, Gordon Tiddy, Paola Carbone, Robin Curtis, Paul Grassia, Nima Shokri, Xue-feng Yuan.

  • Biomaterials

    The research explores the general rules underlying the molecular design and self-assembly of polymer, peptide and protein-based materials in both bulk phase and at interfaces. The molecular building block-structure-property-processing relationships revealed in this work are being used to construct advanced materials whose structure and consequent function will be sensitive to desired environmental cues. Applications include the design of product formulations with improved drug delivery performance, or the modification of implant surfaces for enhancing cell attachment and proliferation.

    Please contact one of the following academic staff for further details of current research activity: Aline Miller, Paola Carbone, Sven Schroeder, Gordon Tiddy, Robin Curtis.

  • Molecular materials in the nuclear fuel cycle

    Our research seeks to establish molecular level understanding of radionuclide behaviour in processes that are relevant to the nuclear fuel cycle, and use this understanding to assess potential scale-up concerns. Particular areas of interest are the improvement of currently established methods or the development of novel procedures for the reprocessing, treatment and/or disposal of spent nuclear fuel and residues, and for the decontamination/decommissioning of nuclear sites. Studies involve working with various liquid media and solid materials, with specific focus on the behaviour of transuranic actinides (i.e. Np, Pu, Am) in these systems. Techniques used to probe radionuclide behaviour include electrochemical methods to understand the redox properties, and numerous spectroscopic and diffraction methods to assess molecular speciation. Multiscale modelling approaches, from calculating the formation of aggregate species to flowsheet modelling, are used to assist in the interpretation of experimental results and assess possible maloperation conditions.

    Please contact one of the following academic staff for further details of current research activity: Clint Sharrad, Sven Schroeder.

Research degrees

We offer postgraduate research PhD, MPhil, MSc by Research, and EngD programmes. Read More >>

View the current funded studentships for PhD study within the School.

The School also has a number of funded scholarships linked to specific research projects.

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