Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Complex fluids and rheology

Research into the characterisation, modelling, formulation and processing of complex fluids (for example blood, creams, pastes and emulsions)

Partners involved:
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

The scope and what we're doing

This area encompasses characterisation, modelling, formulation and processing of complex fluids (for example, blood, creams, pastes and emulsions), including understanding the effects of additives. This includes rheological properties and their measurement. Its key focus is the effect of the process on the resulting performance of the product. An example application is polymer extrusion.

This area does not cover chemical synthesis or soft matter physics of such systems, which other research areas cover.

Recognising that there are multiple stakeholders involved in this area (from healthcare, manufacturing, formulation, and oil and gas) we will continue to encourage applications which bring in longer term disruptive thinking and a coherent approach to the common challenges these sectors face.

Lower technology readiness level fundamental research funded under this area will continue to feed into the National Formulation Centre. This centre will enable UK businesses to collaborate with supply chain partners and academia to develop, prove, prototype and scale up the next generation of formulated products.

To ensure a balanced portfolio, we have considered this strategy alongside the broader chemical engineering portfolio (including the Particle Technology and Process Systems: Components and Integration research areas). We will work with the community to focus on collaboration across the chemistry and chemical engineering interface, identifying opportunities for multidisciplinary research that delivers against the wider EPSRC strategy. Opportunities may exist to link to the Engineering Grand Challenge addressing engineering across length scales, from atoms to applications.

Student training remains highly relevant in this research area and across the wider chemical engineering portfolio due to the growing number of chemical engineering undergraduates, drawn by strong industrial demand. We will work with the chemical engineering community to explore and address any concerns over academic leadership and the balance of support across all career levels.

Why we're doing it

This research area has increased as a percentage of the EPSRC portfolio, due to investments in the Manufacturing theme’s Future Formulation of Complex Products funding opportunity. Three of the seven funded grants contain research in Complex Fluids and Rheology. These investments have moved the portfolio towards research more related to formulation.

There are centres of critical mass in the UK which contribute to the health of this area. These centres are funded both by EPSRC and by broader sources. Internal analysis indicates that large UK based multinationals have committed investment with EPSRC in this research area.

Fundamental research in this area contributes and is key to a number of leading UK industrial sectors, including:

  • manufacturing
  • formulation
  • healthcare
  • pharmaceutical
  • oil and gas.

Together with relevant research areas including Particle Technology, Biophysics and Soft Matter Physics, and Process Systems: Components and Integration, this area contributes to the chemical industry and industries that use chemistry. In total, this area generates £180 billion of sales per year for the UK in a market with estimated global sales totalling £1000 billion. Research looking into the characterisation, modelling and formulation of complex fluids is vital to these industries in relation to the production and use of such complex fluids.

This research area benefits from training provisions from centres for doctoral training , doctoral training partnerships and industrial Collaborative Awards in Science and Technology. These investments are distributed throughout the UK and have been maintained, broadly aligning with growing industrial demand and the increasing relevance of this research area.

This area will draw on and contribute to the health of other research areas and disciplines for example:

  • Fluid Dynamics and Aerodynamics
  • Microsystems
  • Particle Technology
  • Process Systems: Components and Integration.

It is also critical in Polymer Materials, Continuum Mechanics, Biophysics and Soft Matter Physics research areas. Research in this area links to the Healthcare Technologies and Manufacturing the Future challenge themes.

View evidence sources used to inform our research strategies.

Past projects, outcomes and impact

Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships. Find out more about research area connections and funding for complex fluids and rheology.

Find previously funded projects on Grants on the Web.

Who to contact

Last updated: 21 December 2022

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