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Microfluidics for Synchrotron to unlock structural changes in biomolecules

Academic lead
Nik Kapur (Mechanical Engineering)
Industrial lead
Nick Terrill (Diamond Light Source)
Arwen Tyler (School of Food Science and Nutrition)
Project themes
Biomedical Flows, Environmental Flows, Underpinning Methods for Fluid Dynamics

This is a unique opportunity to work closely with Diamond, the UK's national synchrotron science facility, to develop microfluidic tools for use on high energy beams used to probe material characteristics. A carefully designed programme of work will see the successful applicant developing ‘fluidic environments’ where the material of interest is contained within a fluid and some sort of controlled disturbance can be applied, which causes a material response. A real-world example we will use here are nanoparticles that respond to the pH of the external environment. pH is a biologically relevant trigger as there are pH gradients throughout the body (e.g. around cancer tumours) that could be used to release a drug. A more detailed understanding of the changes to the nanoparticles ultimately support rational design of these carriers. This example would see the student will design equipment and then go on to have it built, before commissioning it and carrying out experiments to explore material response.

Fluid mechanics is central to this project. The use of computational fluid dynamic simulations coupled with practical design of fluid chips (which can be manufactured in-house) means the fluidic environments are well characterised allowing the history of the conditions that the fluid sees to be tracked – thus ensuring the link between environment and material response to be fully established.

The student will be based at Diamond for the middle part of their research (they will live away from Leeds in this period). This will give the opportunity to evaluate performance of their designed equipment, as well as gain experience of working within a large research facility. The work is a strong mixture of design and practical work and we are keen to talk to students with aptitude for this.