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Anglia Ruskin University ARU Featured PhD Programmes
Anglia Ruskin University ARU Featured PhD Programmes

Whispering Acoustics – Understanding and controlling nucleation by acoustics/ultrasound in soft matter

Faculty of Environment

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Prof Megan Povey No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Whispering acoustics - low power non-cavitational ultrasound is a new research area with transformative potential across a wide range of industries. A description of our work can be found at There is a need to understand the detailed physics of the non-linear interaction between low power oscillating pressure fields (non-cavitational), aggregation, phase separation and ordering in melts and solutions and the subsequent appearance of embryonic order in undercooled melts and supersaturated solution prior to nucleation and growth of crystalline material. Understanding of such processes enhances process control and enables the generation of new solid structures.

Full description

The School of Food Science and Nutrition has a long-established Food Physics group which forms part of the internationally renowned Food Colloids and Bioprocessing Research Section. More recently Dr Elena Simone has established the Food Crystal Engineering group and together, in collaboration with Lewtas Science and Technology (LST) and Arla Foods we have demonstrated control over crystal nucleation in chocolate, cocoa butter, milk fat and various wax/kerosene systems. The basic process has been patented and some of the fundamental physical process (rectified heat transfer) elucidated1,2,3. We also collaborate closely with scientists at the Diamond Light Source. By using the instruments at Diamond, LST and Leeds were able to monitor the process of crystallisation at the molecular and meso-scales. We combine synchrotron techniques with acoustic methods to understand crystallisation processes happening at a molecular level. By using Diamond’s world-class instruments, we were able to watch in situ as the process evolved. By understanding and manipulating the process at which crystallisation occurs in fats we are better able to create efficient food.

Despite the above described significant progress we do not fully understand all the physical processes (non-linear mass and heat transfer and entropic) which are necessary for an accurate physics model which can be used to predict, develop and control advanced industrial processes. The student will be expected to develop and test such physics models using mathematical models2, Comsol Multiphysics, Matlab, optical microscopy and SAXS/WAXS, in conjunction with supervisors and scientists at LST, Diamond and the Hartree Facility in Daresbury. The project is well supported by advanced equipment both in the Food Physics Laboratory at Leeds (Advanced digital storage oscilloscopes, e.g. Teledyne Lecroy 4054HD, acousto-optical cell, waveform generators, polarised microscope and Linkam stage) and Diamond Beamlines I22 and I13. Our group has been very successful in applications for beamtime at Diamond and of course we are part of the Diamond-Leeds collaboration which gives privileged access to Diamond facilities for Leeds Scientists. The student will benefit from current work funded by Arla Foods on milk fats and the facilities and techniques currently in development as part of that project. The laboratory is further funded by Olam International with whom we have been collaborating for the past four years on the study of Cocoa Butter crystallisation.

Funding Notes

EPSRC DTP 3.5 years fully-funded awards for UK nationals who meet the normal residency requirements; settled and pre-settled EU nationals; and those with ILTR in the UK, There will be up to one award for overseas applicants although if you fall into this funding category, you should contact the project supervisor before making an application


1. Povey, M. & Lewtas, K. WO2017153423A3 Use of Ultrasound and Acoustics to control crystallisation. (2017).
2. Povey, M. J. W. Nucleation in food colloids. J. Chem. Phys. 145, 211906 (2016).
3. Povey, M. J. W. Applications of ultrasonics in food science - novel control of fat crystallization and structuring. Curr. Opin. Colloid Interface Sci. 28, 1–6 (2017).
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