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Research Fellows Directory

Rachel Smith

Dr Rachel Smith

Research Fellow


University of Sheffield

Research summary

Many of the products that we use every day are in the form of powders or particles. These include foods (for example cereal, flour, sugar, salt, coffee), laundry and dishwasher detergent powders and tablets, pharmaceutical tablets and capsules, fertilisers, and many others. Powders and particles make up a part of our everyday lives, however manufacturing powders can be a challenging process. The way that particles interact is complex, and historically there is little research conducted into this area. To add to this, when products like laundry powder are manufactured they are generally coated with liquid ingredients. The way that liquids spread through the powders is not well understood, and this makes it difficult to predict the coating that will be achieved. Manufacturers need to use trial and error to get the product right, and this makes the cost of designing laundry powder processes to very high.

My project focuses on the process of spray coating onto powders and particles. In this work, I will increase understanding of how particles interact with each other and with liquids, and build scientific tools that can be used to design spray coating processes and predict liquid distribution. This will ensure the products will have the desired properties and performance. My research can make a real difference to products people use every day. This project will focus on detergents, but I plan for the research to be applied to a range of different industries, such as fertilisers, pharmaceuticals, and foods.

It is very exciting to develop new understanding of the interactions between particles and liquids. I will be using a range of techniques to understand the spray coating of powders, and I will be linking the interactions at small scales to the behaviour of the bulk materials. This allows me to create models to explain the coating behaviour on different scales, and solve the problem of predicting, designing and scaling-up spray coating processes.

Grants awarded

Spray Coating of Powders and Liquid Contact Transfer: Prediction and Scale-Up

Scheme: Industry Fellowship

Dates: Sep 2015 - Aug 2019

Value: £175,199