Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Particle technology

This research area encompasses growth, formation, processing, measurement, characterisation and multi-scale modelling of dry or wet particulate systems and fluid-particle systems.

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

The scope and what we're doing

This research area encompasses growth, formation, processing, measurement, characterisation and multi-scale modelling of dry or wet particulate systems and fluid-particle systems.

This area includes the fundamental understanding of powder flow and particle-particle interaction. There is a continuum of knowledge from design through synthesis to scale-up and formulation. A key aim is to form predictive links between physical properties and particle behaviour during process operations.

There is currently a high volume of activity in the particle technology area that is strongly linked to industry, primarily supported through EPSRC’s manufacturing the future theme. Many of the recent strategic investments have inflated and shifted the balance of the portfolio towards relatively high technology readiness levels relevant to UK manufacturing.

Although there is potential to identify a number of new research challenges from the current portfolio, it is essential to focus on fundamental engineering research to ensure the long term health of the area and to enable future impacts. Examples of these longer term challenges may include the fundamental understanding of different, novel particulate systems and products, in relation to particle behaviour and process models. EPSRC will work with the community to encourage focused grant applications that address fundamental challenges, so that the portfolio of research in this area will be appropriately balanced.

To ensure a balanced portfolio, we have considered this strategy alongside the broader chemical engineering portfolio including the complex fluids and rheology 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 our wider organisational strategy. Opportunities may exist to link to the engineering grand challenge addressing engineering across length scales, from atoms to applications.

The growing number of chemical engineering undergraduates, emanating from strong industrial demand, means student training remains highly relevant in this research area and across the wider chemical engineering portfolio. 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 significantly as a proportion of the EPSRC portfolio due to the recent investment in the manufacturing the future and the physical sciences themes’ call in future formulation of complex products. Five of the seven funded grants contain particle technology research.

These investments reflect the current importance of formulation science to industry and complement initiatives such as the:

Such initiatives 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. These innovation drivers have pushed particle technology research towards higher-technology readiness level formulation-related research. There is also a need to refocus the area towards long term fundamental engineering research challenges.

Particle technology is seen as a mature subject area that is largely supported by industry. Many small and medium sized enterprises engaged in the formulation supply chain have their origins in spin outs from UK universities. This means they are supported by world class expertise in particle design and particle processing.

Research in particle technology is core to many industrial processes and is dominated by industrial drivers. This area contributes to a number of leading UK industrial sectors including manufacturing, formulation, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, a fact highlighted by the presence of a wide range of industrial partners on EPSRC investments.

Postgraduate training in this area has grown through the formation of a number of interlinked centres for doctoral training, which are strongly linked to industry. Training provisions through the Industrial Collaborative Awards in Science and Technology and the Doctoral Training Partnership schemes also benefit this area. These investments broadly align with the growing industrial demand and increasing relevance of this research area and are concentrated in particular centres of excellence, with a small number distributed throughout the UK. .

This area will draw on and contribute to other research areas and disciplines, such as:

Research in this area strongly links to the manufacturing the future challenge theme.

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 particle technology.

Find previously funded projects on Grants on the Web.

Who to contact

Last updated: 3 January 2023

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