A pioneer in engineering new materials for use in healthcare is to receive the £2,000 Royal Academy of Engineering Armourers and Brasiers Prize for his achievements that have improved the quality of life of patients in many ways.
Professor Mohan Edirisinghe FREng of University College London’s Department of Mechanical Engineering has spent his 25-year career developing new methods to manufacture advanced materials in response to industry requirements, in particular healthcare. As medical devices have become smaller, Professor Edirisinghe has developed novel techniques for producing materials at the micro- and nano-scale with features, such as bubbles and particles that are many times smaller than the width of a human hair.
His patented technology for producing micro-bubbles and nano-particles has enabled the manufacture of whole new drug delivery systems, such as layered capsules loaded with drugs. Such systems can improve the way that conditions such as urinary tract infections are treated, saving money and alleviating the suffering of thousands of patients through more efficient drug delivery.
Biomaterials Processing Lab team led by Professor Mohan Edirisinghe
To manufacture such materials consistently, Professor Edirisinghe was the first to develop novel gyratory methods for manufacturing polymer nano-fibres, in which reactants are spun at high speeds under pressure. Pressurised gyration has since been patented and supported by large chemical and pharmaceutical companies, with a number of similar gyratory manufacturing processes being used to produce components such as antimicrobial filters.
Professor Edirisinghe was also the first person to process very viscous materials using electrohydrodyanmic (EHD) techniques, which involves using electrically charged fluids to print tiny structures an order of magnitude finer than those possible using ink-jet printing. EHD printing is now used to produce porous structures for tissue engineering, and bioactive ceramic-on-metal coatings for orthopaedic implants.
Explaining his passion for his work, Professor Edirisinghe said:
“I’m a maker and an innovator, and I want to help make things that previously couldn’t be made. In healthcare, people want smaller and smaller features, so I want to invent new methods of production that will also scale up, making them attractive to industry. Ultimately, new materials will reach a patient or user and give them and their clinicians more freedom.
“Materials engineering holds the key to many solutions for academia and industry, and I enjoy working in a mechanical engineering environment as it gives me the freedom to explore manufacturing techniques. I’m honoured to receive this award in recognition of my achievements in these fields.”