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Smart Materials & Surfaces Laboratory (SMSL)

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 how surfaces can shape liquids, reduce drag and how forces can manipulate droplets or liquid films.

Smart materials and surfaces are ones designed with particular properties and whose properties can be changed by external forces or interfacial interactions. They are designed using physical structuring and control of interactions and often involve liquids.

We study:

  • How micro- and nano-structured surfaces can shape liquids and create super-liquid repellent, super-slurp and super-slippery surfaces
  • How such surfaces can reduce drag
  • How liquids can be transported and their properties sensed
  • How Leidenfrost levitation, acoustic waves and electric fields can manipulate droplets or liquid films
  • How particle encapsulated droplets (“Liquid Marbles”) can be created as soft solids
  • We use novel functional/structural materials and fabrication strategies, such as directed assembly of complex, nano- and micro-constructed soft materials systems and their nanocomposites.

Our materials approaches includes lubricant impregnated surfaces, polymers with wrinkling and creasing behaviours, shape memory materials, metamaterials, micro-engineering and lithography for micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS), micro-systems, micro fluidic devices, flexible electronics and smart textiles.

Our surfaces are often inspired by natural systems, such as the stay-clean Lotus leaves and slippery Pitcher plant.

We use a wide range of experimental techniques and approaches, including surface acoustic waves (SAWs), electrowetting (EWOD), the Leidenfrost effect, 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 and with the support of the UK Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Innovate UK, The Royal Society, overseas funding agencies, industrial partners and a range of UK and international universities.

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

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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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