Microfluidics with flexible liquid walls

Microfluidic systems allow precise control and manipulation of geometrically constrained liquids to a small scale and underpin Lab-on-a-Chip applications. This project will create new types of microfluidic systems with reconfigurable liquid walls.
A lab-on-a-chip integrates laboratory functions onto a small integrated circuit to achieve automation and high-throughput screening with minimal waste. Such chips rely on microfluidic systems to dispense, mix, separate and move small volumes of liquid. These are often created using microfabrication to create channels and features in a solid structure, but an alternative is to use droplet-based microfluidics. Here the droplet encapsulates the liquid and the interface between a droplet and another immiscible phase (air or another liquid) becomes the “wall”. Transport of the liquid occurs by applying forces to the droplet through, e.g. acoustic, electrostatic, magnetic or other forces.
The flexibility provided by liquid walls allows reconfigurable microfluidic processes. The project will design, fabricate and test completely new types of droplet microfluidic systems. These will include ones where reversible droplet-to-film transitions can drive radial liquid motion and create internal liquid flows. Following the design and creation of patterned substrates, experiments will use video observation and particle tracking to observe droplet reconfiguration and internal flows. We will consider how the principles developed can create droplet functions such as separation of components in complex fluids, mixing, pumping and transportation.
Work will be conducted within the School of Engineering of the University and may involve wider collaboration with Universities in the UK and Overseas.

This project will also be co-supervised by Dr Gary G. Wells and Dr Rodrigo Ledesma-Aguilar

Further Information: 

Recent Publications by Supervisor:
1.    Edwards, A. M. J. M. J., Brown, C. V., Newton, M. I. I. & McHale, G. Dielectrowetting: The past, present and future. Curr. Opin. Colloid Interface Sci. vol. 36, 28–36 (2018).
2.    Edwards, A. M. J., Ledesma-Aguilar, R., Newton, M. I., Brown, C. V. & McHale, G. Not spreading in reverse: The dewetting of a liquid film into a single drop. Sci. Adv. vol. 2, e1600183 (2016).
3.    Guan, J. H. et al. Drop transport and positioning on lubricant-impregnated surfaces. Soft Matter vol. 13, 3404–3410 (2017).
4.    Launay, G. et al. Self-propelled droplet transport on shaped-liquid surfaces. Sci. Rep. vol. 10, 14987 (2020).
5.    Sadullah, M. S. et al. Bidirectional motion of droplets on gradient liquid infused surfaces. Commun. Phys. vol. 3, 166 (2020).
Public Understanding:

The University of Edinburgh is committed to equality of opportunity for all its staff and students, and promotes a culture of inclusivity. Please see details here: https://www.ed.ac.uk/equality-diversity

Closing Date: 

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Principal Supervisor: 

Prof Glen McHale

Assistant Supervisor: 

Dr Jonathan Terry


Minimum entry qualification - an Honours degree at 2:1 or above (or International equivalent) in a relevant science or engineering discipline, possibly supported by an MSc Degree. Further information on English language requirements for EU/Overseas applicants.


Tuition fees + stipend are available for Home/EU students (International students can apply, but the funding only covers the Home/EU fee rate)

•    Applicants with Home tuition fee status:  A stipend and Home tuition fees are available for the successful candidate.  Please see here for a definition of Home students.
•    Applicants with EU Fee status: If an EU applicant is successful and starts BEFORE 1st August 2021, they will be eligible for Home tuition fees and stipend (see above).  If an EU applicant is successful and starts AFTER 1st August 2021, they will be eligible for the stipend but an Overseas fee status will apply (see below).
•    Applicants with Overseas fee status: Overseas applicants are welcome to apply and will be eligible for the Home tuition fee and stipend, but the top up in fees from Home rate to Overseas rate must be secured by the candidate (either through self-funded means or through external scholarship).

Further information and other funding options.

Informal Enquiries: