Current Projects

Biomechanics of the Human Brain

Researcher: Dr Antonio Elia ForteBrain

Supervisor: Professor Daniele Dini

Sponsor: EPSRC


The main objective of this project is to develop phantoms capable of providing detailed anatomical structures along with an accurate tactile response when performing surgical tasks such as cutting, indention and suturing. This can be achieved by replacing conventional materials with custom-designed multicomponent polymer blends that can mimic the mechanical behaviour of complex organic tissues. The project is aimed at designing, making and testing synthetic tissues tailored to reproduce the mechanical response of different human organs and tissues (lung, brain, liver, skin, cartilage, etc.). Direct comparisons with data acquired from real tissues using either in-vitro data or imaging during surgical procedures, and feedback from a number of experienced surgeons, will be used to validate the effectiveness of the proposed solutions, with an initial focus on brain tissue.

The first stage of the project will involve experimental testing protocols based on methodologies developed to assess the response of materials for engineering applications, such as rheometric and oedometric analyses, friction and fracture tests, porosity measurements, strain-hardening and hysteresis studies. In the second stage, the mechanical characterisation of the tissue will be used to design new synthetic materials using engineering principles (integrity and functional response of the tissue). This will be coupled to the chemical and tissue engineering components of the project, whereby the focus will shift on understanding the relations between aggregation methods of polymeric chains and variation in the elastic and viscous properties, dynamic moduli, and porosity of the synthetic materials. The match with the mechanical behaviour of specific organic tissues will be obtained by balancing the concentrations of the components to fine tune the final behaviour of the synthetic material. Full 3D models of the human brain for different surgical procedures will also be introduced. The results obtained from the simulations will be evaluated against the experimental result presented in the first part of the work. The resultant human models will be the outcomes of a multidisciplinary approach that involves chemistry, materials science, mechanical engineering and mathematical modelling. The models could become a useful tool in the preoperative planning stage, supporting surgeons in increasing the success rate in the operating theatre.

Coupled Fluid-Mechanical Modelling of the Brain

Researcher: Andrea Bernardiniwhite matter

Supervisor: Professor Daniele Dini

Sponsor: EDEN2020


The brain is composed of two main types of tissues, namely grey and white matter. In this project, we focus on the latter, which is where glioblastoma is localised (i.e. where the EDEN system will infuse medication). The white matter is comprised of several types of cells and components which make it possible to theorise it as an anisotropic mechanical entity. Segmentation of the components from SEM images enables the 3-D reconstruction of the representative units to be modelled and then analysed via FEA.

A coupled fluid-mechanical model of the brain will be developed by modelling the mechanical behaviour of such tissue and its interaction with the fluidic environment in which it is submerged. This will enable the prediction of diffusive phenomena and patterns in the enhanced drug delivery in order to optimise the surgical procedure and the point of cancer-drug dosing.

EDEN2020 (An Enhanced Delivery Ecosystem for Neurosurgery)

Researcher: Dr Stefano Galvan, Andrea Bernardini, Zhengchu Tan

Supervisor:  Professor Daniele Dini, Dr Philippa CannDr Marc MasenEDEN2020

Sponsor: EDEN2020


Due to an aging population and the spiralling cost of brain disease in Europe and beyond, EDEN2020 aims to develop the gold standard for one-stop diagnosis and minimally invasive treatment in neurosurgery. Supported by a clear business case, it will exploit the unique track record of leading research institutions and key industrial players in the field of surgical robotics to overcome the current technological barriers that stand in the way of real clinical impact.

Lubrication and Fluid Load-Support in Hydrogels for Cartilage Substitutes

Researcher: Elze Porte

Supervisor: Dr Marc MasenDr Philippa Cann

Sponsor: Imperial College London


This research focuses on gaining a better understanding of the lubrication mechanisms in articular cartilage. Currently, there is no thorough understanding of the relationship between the lubrication of the material, its fluid load support, and its mechanical properties.

Hydrogels have been suggested as promising substitute materials for cartilage because of their specific mechanical and tribological properties. This makes them suitable substitutes for use in lubrication experiments and, ultimately, as a potential cartilage replacement material in the surgical treatment of osteoarthritis

Fluid exudation from the bulk material into the loaded region is believed to provide the fluid load support and lubrication. To study the lubricating mechanisms of hydrogels as cartilage substitutes, contact and lubrication experiments are done on the newly developed Biotribometer (PCS Instruments, London UK). The obtained knowledge can be used to improve the existing hydrogel structures.


Numerical and Experimental Fracture Mechanic Approach to Needle Insertion Crack Growth in Soft Tissue

Researcher: Zhengchu TanPlot

Supervisor: Professor Daniele Dini

Sponsor: EDEN2020


The characterisation of the mechanical response of real soft tissues, such as brain, liver and cartilage, is immensely important as it allows us to understand the way they respond under a variety of different loads. Hence, ways to reduce damage to living tissues during real life scenarios can be identified and developed. However, real tissue is difficult to obtain and test due to accessibility. Therefore, there is a huge advantage in developing an accurate synthetic tissue phantom that is easier to procure and produce. This has led to the popularity of hydrogels, which have been developed into tissue mimicking materials due to their biocompatibility and stiffness tunability.

This project focuses on the development of a composite hydrogel (CH) constituting of poly(vinyl) alcohol (PVA) and phytagel that is able to match the complex viscoelastic behaviour of brain. The CH can be tuned to achieve different stiffness and relaxation responses by varying the concentrations of each hydrogel component, which allows the material to mimic other soft tissues.

Consequently, a mechanically accurate tissue phantom material opens the doors to many applications in the study of mechanobiology and regenerative medicine. This project investigates cell viability of the CH substrate, therefore extending the range of applicability to explore a variety of different mechanical loads affects cells seeded on a CH substrate These experiments include impact tests, needle insertion tests and tribological tests to match the high strain rate behaviour of brain for the study of TBI, fracture behaviour of liver during surgery and tribological behaviour of cartilage, respectively.

Oral Tribology of Regular and Diet Cola Drinks

Researcher: Dr Sophie Bozorgi

Supervisor: Dr Tom ReddyhoffDr Connor Myant

Sponsor: Pepsi Co.


This project is a collaboration between PepsiCo, Kings College and Imperial College London, and is investigating the links between the tribological/rheological characteristics of saliva and mouthfeel.  The goal is to understand how beverages interact with saliva and how this interaction affects the lubricating conditions within the mouth. This will providing a greater understanding of how beverage formulation affects mouth feel and taste perception.

Origins of Ostheoarthritis

Researcher: Maryam Imani Masouleh

Supervisor: Professor Daniele Dini

Sponsor: BOA


Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common form of arthritis that causes joint degradation and affects up to 15% of the adult population. It is characterized by chronic and irreversible degeneration of articular cartilage (AC). Hemiarthoplasty is a surgical procedure, where the diseased (OA) cartilage on one side of the joint is replaced with an implant, while the other side remains intact. A key factor in determining the longevity of the implant is the friction properties of the material used as a counter-surface in contact with AC and their effect on the mechanical characteristics of the tissue.

The main aim of this study is to analyse the mechanical and frictional response of different shoulder humeral component materials against the natural glenoid. This has been developed as a two stage process. Initially, friction and wear properties of four different grades of human osteoarthritic AC were measured using pin-on-disc technique against three major types of implant materials used in hemiarthoplasty including Cobalt-Chromium alloy (Co-Cr), Ceramic (Al2O3) and Polycarbonate-urethane (PCU) polymer. The second stage of this study focuses on creating a model more anatomically realistic of the hemi-replaced shoulder joint and assesses the cartilage mechanical behaviour. A custom made joint simulator has been built and will be used to investigate the response of shoulder joints under representative loads. The glenoid will be tested against different humeral component materials to understand the friction/wear response of the cartilage. The correlation between mechanically/enzymatically damaged and healthy cartilage will be investigated. Histological analysis will be performed on the tissue to observe any structural changes due to wear. The results from this study can aid the surgeons to choose the best possible material for hemiarthoplasty according to the disease state of the patient.

Synovial Fluid Lubrication and Wear of Artificial Joints

Researcher: Harriet Stevensondeposits

Supervisor: Dr Philippa CannDr Connor Myant

Sponsor: EPSRC


In 2015 there were over 180,000 primary hip and knee joint replacement procedures recorded in the United Kingdom. These devices are used to relive pain and restore function in degenerated joints caused by disease, trauma or genetic condition. Artificial joints are essentially tribological devices as the bearing surfaces articulate under load. As such they are susceptible to the usual tribology issues of high friction, wear, corrosion and fatigue and these problems can contribute to failure and revision.

Implant procedures are currently carried out for hips, knees, shoulder, elbows, ankles and spinal disks; the most common of which are hips and knees totalling 48 % and 49 % of all replacements recorded in the United Kingdom respectively. Whilst most implants remain fully functional nearly 10 % of hips required revision surgery in 2015. Prostheses are increasingly being implanted into younger patients and therefore the life expectancy and performance requirements are on the rise.

The aims of this study are to understand the fundamental lubrication mechanisms of synovial fluid (SF) and to characterise how friction and implant wear are related to SF chemistry. There is a limited amount of published work on the effects of SF chemistry on implant wear and most of this is limited to UHMWPE rather than CoCrMo with model or Bovine Calf Serum (BCS) fluids. One important aspect of this work is to include human SF in the research programme. There are very few studies on lubrication and wear with human SF, which is a significant omission to our understanding of the problem. At the start of the PhD project an opportunity arose to obtain human SF through collaboration with Dr Mathew Jaggard (Muscleoskeletal Research Laboratory). Bench testing of human SF and comparing the results to model formulations will contribute to our fundamental knowledge of the effect of chemistry on wear and the validity of using 25 % BCS as a reference fluid. The image shows metallic and organic deposits around a ball wear scar.

The Fundamentals of the Tribology of Shaving

Researcher: Suzannah Whitehouse

Supervisor:  Dr Philippa CannProfessor Daniele Dini, Dr Connor Myant

Sponsor: P&G


This project looks to gain a fundamental understanding of shaving tribology and the lubrication within the skin-razor cartridge interface. Tribology is the study of friction, wear and lubrication; the science of interacting surfaces in relative motion. As such, shaving is a complex tribological system and is affected by the skin, hair, shaving cartridge and lubricant.

The aim is to understand the fundamental mechanisms of the skin-cartridge interface, the impact of cartridge design on fluid flow through the skin-cartridge contact and the effect of lubricant chemistry and film thickness on friction. These aspects of shaving will be explored through skin-cartridge model experiments conducted under controlled conditions. The model experiments fall into three main categories: friction measurements (MTM – effect of lubricant on friction), film thickness measurements (laser induced fluorescence) and lubricant chemistry.