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The development and characterisation of biomaterials, soft materials and metamaterials for life sciences, including medical devices and their role in diagnostics and controlling biological function.

Research groups associated with bio/soft materials at Exeter

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CMRI staff associated with bio/soft materials at Exeter



Prof Euan Hendry

THz materials, imaging and spectroscopy; Nonlinear optics

We explore the potential for developing new THz components and sensors to fill the so called “THz gap”, utilizing novel magnetic and plasmonic responses of many materials in this region, and are currently working on novel methods for imaging in this difficult spectral region. We also work in plasmonics, and explore the possibility of replacing coinage metals with new materials such as graphene and ITO. These materials have tuneable electromagnetic responses, as free electrons can controllably introduced by chemical, electrical or photo- doping, making the manipulating light on extreme sub-wavelength length scales possible, and we focus on enhancing nonlinear optical responses for optical switching etc.

Electromagnetic and Acoustic Materials

Prof Geoff Nash

Optical and Acoustic Materials and Devices

Within the Nash group we explore the fascinating characteristics of new materials including 2D materials- for example, graphene and metasurfaces. We both investigate fundamental phenomena, such as the interaction of light with molecules, and aim to exploit these phenomena to create novel technology.

Nano Engineering Science and Technology Group

Prof Feodor Ogrin

Bio-inspired magnetic systems

Many microorganisms in the natural world have developed properties which could be invaluable for our technologies. Even a ‘simple’ motion or moving liquid at microscale can help us to revolutionise a range of practices used in medicine and biotechnology. In this research we use magnetic materials to help us creating microscopic machines that would be able to mimic micro-organisms. As well as building and controlling them the main challenge of the research is to find the ways to recreate the mechanics of the biological systems in the highly viscous environment which they are exposed to. Our research is highly interdisciplinary, and as well as the magnetic phenomena includes such disciplines as hydrodynamics, microfluidics, mechanics and electromagnetism.

Electromagnetic and Acoustic Materials

Prof Sir Roy Sambles

Electromagnetic and acoustic materials

Waves change their speed when going from one material to another - refraction. By structuring materials on the scale of the wavelength of the wave, creating so-called metamaterials, it is possible to create, by design, remarkable effects such as negative refraction or phase speeds approaching infinity. Using microwaves (wavelength of order mms) or sound (wavelength of order cms) it is relatively straightforward to make novel materials with properties not otherwise obtainable. This leads on to potential applications such as perfect radar absorbers or holey screens which allow air through but little sound. Since microwave communications and sound play such vital roles (mobile phones, TVs, radio etc.) in our everyday lives the fundamental research being undertaken here on novel metamaterials may have very significant sociological impact.

Electromagnetic and Acoustic Materials

Prof Nick Stone

Biomedical Imaging and Biosensing

As Professor of Biomedical Imaging and Biosensing I am working at the interface between physics, engineering and medicine. I am exploring the novel use of novel vibrational spectroscopic techniques for point of care testing, advanced spectral histopathology and rapid in vivo diagnostics. Here we explore the power of light to measure the changes in the molecular constituents of cells and tissues as disease develops. This can be achieved in short timescales, in a minimally invasive manner using fibre optics or deep scattering methods.

Biomedical Physics

Prof Frank Vollmer

Single-Molecule Biosensors

Sensor systems have emerged that exhibit extraordinary sensitivity for detecting physical, chemical, and biological entities at the micro/nanoscale. Particularly exciting is the detection and analysis of molecules on miniature devices that have many possible applications in health, environment, analysis, and security.

Living Systems Institute (LSI): Vollmer Laboratory of Nano and Quantum Biosensing

Associate Professors


Prof Francesca Palombo

Biophotonics and Biomechanics

The mechanical properties of biological tissues are central to their function and impairment is implicated in ageing and disease. Changes in the macroscopic mechanical properties, and tissue structure and composition, are both well characterised but the causal relationships between them are largely unclear. A novel microscopy technique based on Brillouin light scattering from acoustic waves at GHz frequencies has emerged for the contactless 3-D probing of tissue mechanics at the microscopic and subcellular levels. In Exeter we advance the development and applications of Brillouin microscopy as a novel optical technique within biophotonics and the clinical environment.

Biomedical Physics

Prof Dave Phillips

Structured light

I work on spatial structuring of infra-red and visible light for a variety of applications to imaging, optical trapping and optical communications. Dynamic light shaping is achieved using liquid crystal spatial light modulators and digital micro-mirror devices. We are also developing new methods to create compact light transforming optics using direct laser writing (microscale 3D printing).

Biomedical Physics

Senior Lecturers / Senior Research Fellows

Dr Alex Corbett

Fluorescence Microscopy

We explore different techniques for non-invasively observing live biological samples to recover three-dimensional image data. These techniques include exploiting linear and non-linear optical effects, phase conjugation techniques or using active optical devices to generate structured light patterns to provide image data with high spatial and temporal resolution.

Key research challenges include expanding the three dimensional field of view of these imaging system to study larger samples, the development of new probes to improve contrast, imaging depth and chemical specificity, increasing sample throughput to generate reliable statistics of specimen behaviour and finally generating new image processing algorithms (including AI) to extract meaningful information from large data sets.

Biomedical Physics


Dr Stefano Pagliara

Membrane transport in antibiotic resistance

Bacteria exchange molecules with their environment taking up molecules essential for subsistence while excluding poisonous molecules such as antibiotics. They do so by using proteins that form physical pathways for molecular transport across membranes, these pathways being at the basis of antibiotic resistance, one of the most challenging problems for our society. Using a metamaterials approach through microfluidics and imaging I study the fundamental diversity in the capability to take up molecules in bacteria, aiming to understand which physical pathways are used by individual bacteria to achieve this diversity. The new knowledge that I am developing will provide guidelines for the optimisation of antibiotic therapy in killing infecting bacteria.

Dr Peter Petrov

Mechanics and electrostatics of soft and biomembranes

My research interests are in the area of membrane biophysics, with emphasis on the relationships between membrane composition, mesoscopic lateral ordering, physical properties and biological function. Much work is carried out on the biophysics of the interactions between bacterial toxins and cell membranes, transmembrane transport as well as 2D mesoscopic structure and physical properties of artificial lipid mono- and bilayers using a variety of advanced optical microscopy and synchrotron techniques. Further research interests include statics and dynamics of wetting and low Reynolds number propulsion.

Biomedical Physics

Lecturers / Research Fellows

Dr Anna Katharina Ott

Quantum materials and spectroscopy

Transition metal dichalcogenides are a novel platform for quantum optics. They are optically active, semiconducting layered materials which can be exfoliated from their bulk crystals to monolayers which can be re-assembled to vertical heterostructures by stacking. These layered materials (LMs) are promising for fast optoelectronics and on-chip photonics. We demonstrated the existence of quantum light emitters in atomically thin TMD layers. Raman spectroscopy and photoluminescence is the primary tool to characterise layered materials and heterostacks used as platform for quantum optics. These techniques can identify TMDs, extract the number of layers, doping, quality of the material.

Nano Engineering Science and Technology Group

CONTRAST - the UK’s first user access coherent Raman scattering facility 

Multiphoton Microscopy

Optics and fluorescence microscopy facilities