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Smart Materials & Surfaces Laboratory (SMSL)

Smart Materials & Surfaces Laboratory at Northumbria University

Smart materials and surfaces are ones designed with particular properties and whose properties can be changed by external forces or interfacial interactions. Our research includes investigations into liquid-solid interactions and development of smart devices employing smart materials and surfaces.

We use novel functional/structural materials and fabrication strategies, such as directed assembly of complex, nano- and micro-constructed soft materials, hybrid nano- and microfabrication methods, and embroidery for smart textiles. 

We study:

  • How bio-inspired micro- and nano-structured surfaces can shape liquids and create functional and tuneable properties including hydrophobicity, drag and tension.
  • How liquid droplets can be efficiently manipulated employing various methods including acoustofluidics, Leidenfrost levitation, and mechanical metamaterials and microtransducers.
  • How liquids can be effectively sensed for a wide range of applications in biomolecular interactions, material characterisation and environmental monitoring.
  • How the added functionalities can be utilised for energy materials.
  • How the added functionalities can be utilised for smart wearables.

We use a wide range of experimental techniques and approaches, including surface acoustic waves (SAWs), electrowetting (EWOD), the Leidenfrost effect (both bulk and selective), high speed video, contact angle goniometry and surface characterisation methods from laser scanning confocal microscopy (LSCM) to scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and atomic force microscopy (AFM).

We complement all we do with analytical and computational modelling, Lattice-Boltzmann, finite element and other complementary techniques ensuring a close and supportive collaboration between experiment and theory.

Our recent research has been conducted in collaboration with a range of UK and international universities and with the support of the UK Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Innovate UK, The Royal Society, European Commission, and industrial partners.

We lead Special Interest Groups (SIGs) on "Acoustofluidics" and "Droplet and Flow Interactions with Bioinspired and Smart Surfaces" in the EPSRC-funded UK Fluids Network (UKFN).

Group leadership and contacts

Research relationships

Research from this group has been submitted to REF2021 under UoA 12: Engineering.

To view research papers emanating from this group, please click here to view Northumbria Research Link, our open access repository of research output from Northumbria University.


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