Micro & Nano Flows for Engineering

The micro & nano flows group is a research partnership between the Universities of Warwick and Edinburgh, and Daresbury Laboratory. We investigate gas and liquid flows at the micro and nano scale (where conventional analysis and classical fluid dynamics cannot be applied) using a range of simulation techniques: molecular dynamics,  extended hydrodynamics, stochastic modelling, and hybrid multiscaling. Our aim is to predict and understand these flows by developing methods that combine modelling accuracy with computational efficiency.

Targeted applications all depend on the behaviour of interfaces that divide phases, and include: radical cancer treatments that exploit nano-bubble cavitation; the cooling of high-power electronics through evaporative nano-menisci; nanowire membranes for separating oil and water, e.g. for oil spills; and smart nano-structured surfaces for drag reduction and anti-fouling, with applications to low-emissions aerospace, automotive and marine transport.


EPSRC Programme Grant in Nano-Engineered Flow Technologies

Our work is supported by a number of funding sources (see below), including a 5-year EPSRC Programme Grant (2016-2020). This Programme aims to underpin future UK innovation in nano-structured and smart interfaces by delivering a simulation-for-design capability for nano-engineered flow technologies, as well as a better scientific understanding of the critical interfacial fluid dynamics.

We will produce software that a) resolves interfaces down to the molecular scale, and b) spans the scales relevant to the engineering application. As accurate molecular/particle methods are computationally unfeasible at engineering scales, and efficient but conventional fluids models do not capture the important molecular physics, this is a formidable multiscale problem in both time and space. The software we develop will have embedded intelligence that decides dynamically on the correct simulation tools needed at each interface location, for every phase combination, and matches these tools to appropriate computational platforms for maximum efficiency.

This work is strongly supported by nine external partners (see below).

Current Funding

  • “Nano-Engineered Flow Technologies: Simulation for Design across Scale and Phase” EPSRC Programme Grant EP/N016602/1 01/16-12/20 (£3.4M)
  • “The First Open-Source Software for Non-Continuum Flows in Engineering” EPSRC grants: EP/K038427/1 K038621/1 K038664/1 07/13-06/17 (£0.9M)
  • “Multiscale Simulation of Interfacial Dynamics for Breakthrough Nano/Micro-Flow Engineering Applications” ARCHER Leadership Project 11/15-10/17 (£60k in supercomputer computational resource)
  • “Skating on Thin Nanofilms: How Liquid Drops Impact Solids” Leverhulme Research Project Grant 08/16-08/19 (£146k funding a 3-year PDRA)


  • Airbus Group Ltd
  • AkzoNobel
  • Bell Labs
  • European Space Agency
  • Jaguar Land Rover
  • Oxford Biomedical Engineering (BUBBL)
  • TotalSim Ltd
  • Waters Corporation

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Latest news and blogs

Dr James Sprittles, University of Warwick

Warwick welcomes Vinay Gupta who has started a 2-year Commonwealth Rutherford Fellowship in the Mathematics Institute.  Vinay's background is in exploiting moment methods to describe gas mixtures and granular gases.

David Emerson

Prof. David R Emerson, Daresbury Laboratory

Arnau Miro from the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya won a HPC Europa-2 grant for a 13-week visit to the Daresbury group. Arnau will be working on advanced meshing and code coupling strategies and starts his visit mid-January.

Dr. Duncan Lockerby

Prof. Duncan Lockerby, University of Warwick

Following an international competition, Jason Reese has been awarded a prestigious Chair in Emerging Technologies by the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng). 

These Chairs “identify global research visionaries and provide them with long-term support to lead on developing emerging technology areas with high potential to deliver economic and social benefit to the UK”.

For 10 years from March 2018, Prof Reese will be funded by the RAEng within the Micro & Nano Flows partnership to develop a new platform technology in multi-scale simulation-driven design for industrial innovation and scientific endeavour.

Further info: https://www.raeng.org.uk/news/news-releases/2018/april/academy-funds-global-research-visionaries-to-advan

Jesse Pritchard , PhD Student, University of Warwick

Take a look at this video on the Weissenberg effect.

When stress is applied to a fluid, a certain amount of strain, or deformation, is observed. In particular, for a Newtonian fluid, viscous stresses that arise from the flow are linearly proportional to the local rate of deformation over time. It is determined from this that for Newtonian fluids (such as water and oil), the viscosity of the fluid does not depend on the applied stress. So when a rotational stress is applied (as in the video) at the bottom of a Newtonian fluid, below an air-liquid interface, the resulting flow is dominated by inertial and gravity-effects which causes the fluid to flow down toward the source of the stress and radially outward. For pseudoplastics (such as grease), a type of Non-Newtonian fluid where the viscosity decreases as the applied stress increases, applying the same rotational stress will decrease viscosity near the source, which causes inertia and gravity to no longer dominate the flow, causing the fluid to flow upward and bulge at the air interface.

A fun instance of this effect is known as 'rod-climbing'. Rotating a rod inserted into a pseudoplastic causes the polymer chains that make up the fluid to congregate around the regions of highest stress and orient themselves in the direction of shearing, meaning that chains closer to the rod (where stress is highest) are stretched less than those chains further away, and so occupy 'lower states of energy'. The chains' desire to reach these regions of low energy creates an inward normal force and so the fluid goes in the only direction is can - UP THE ROD.

Shiwani Singh, Research Fellow, University of Warwick

Only upto 40% of the original oil in place could be extracted from the oil reservoir using water flooding, the so-called primary recovery method . A large portion of oil is left behind as immobile ganglia. The enhanced oil recovery (EOR) techniques, the secondary recovery methods, are hence needed to extract the remaining oil. Polymer flooding is one such technique. In this EOR techniques, the injected water is supplemented with the long chain polymers which makes the injected water an visco-elastic fluid with a tunable viscosity. The primary purpose of adding polymer is to increase the viscosity of the flood water so that he mobility of injected water becomes less then that of oil which maximize the sweep efficiency, creating a smooth flood font without viscous fingering. This EOR technique has been successfully used to effectively recover the remaining oil from the reservoir, up to 30% of the original oil in place. 

Dr James Sprittles, University of Warwick

On May 17/18 Rohit and I gave invited talks at the inaugural Surface Wettability Effects on Phase Change Phenomena (SWEP) workshop in Brighton.  This was organised by Joel De Coninck, our first Visiting Scientist of the Programme, and Marco Marengo who are both experts in this field - their hope is that this workshop will become a yearly fixture.  They opened the workshop by reminding the audience of the incredible effects that wettability can have: adding just one layer of molecules to the top of a surface can completely change the shape of mm-sized drops that sit on top of them, which is the equivalent in scale of ants being able to change the shape of mountains (apologies for the poor quality photo)!

Rohit and I gave the last and first talks, respectively, with Rohit impressing the audience with his work on acoustofluidics whilst I spoke about 3 canonical problems involving kinetic effects in interfacial flows, including work with Mykyta (drop impact), Anirudh (drop evaporation) and Duncan.

There were many interesting presentations on a wide range of phase change phenomena.  I particularly enjoyed Carlo Antonini's talk "License to Freeze" which reviewed methods for controlling ice formation on surfaces (including an inverse Leidenfrost effect, where evaporation occurs from the underlying substrate rather than the impacting drop drop, which we could potentially simulate) and Daniel Attinger's talk on "What is the Optimum Wettability of a Pool Boiling Heater?", which carefully explained the experimental and theoretical challenges of understanding the subtle interplay between wettability, phase change and heat transfer driven by bubble formation at a (complex) solid surface.

All in all the workshop was very enjoyable and the level of scientific discussion was high (i.e. Rohit and I got grilled!) - I would recommend it to our group members in future years.