Frontier Engineering

Project Name

Frontier Engineering




01/07/2013 – 30/06/2018

Project Collaborators

Professor Nicholas Wright, Newcastle University

Professor Tom Curtis, Newcastle University

Dr Jennifer Hallinan, Newcastle University

Dr Ketan Pancholi, Newcastle University

Dr Paolo Zuliani, Newcastle University

Dr Russell Davenport, Newcastle University

Professor Anil Wipat, Newcastle University

Professor Anthony Roskilly, Newcastle University

Professor Darren Wilkinson, Newcastle University

Professor Paul Watson, Newcastle University

Dr Benjamin Bridgens, Newcastle University

Dr Jinju Chen, Newcastle University

Dr Andrew McGough, Newcastle University



Project Description


Biology will lie at the heart of many 21st century technologies to sustainably address the numerous challenges facing societies such as waste, energy, water, corrosion and new materials. The ability to undertake credible and calibrated simulation in open engineered biological systems could transform our ability to innovate in this field: maximizing our ability to explore the range of solutions at this frontier and reducing the risk of failure at full scale.

This ambitious project seeks to develop a suite of universal principles and models for the scalable simulation of biological systems thereby allowing the engineering of new functionalities offered by natural or synthetic organisms for the benefit of mankind. In order to achieve our ambition we will need to address and integrate the following objectives using the best scientific principles and theories backed by state-of-the art distributed computing power. Initially, this will be achieved using wastewater treatment as our engineering example. However, we believe our approach will be very widely applicable.

Our objectives are as follows:

1. Develop validated biological floc and biofilm models that scale from the micro- to meso-scale integrating aggregate behaviour as an output from one scale to another, using physical, biological and chemical data.

2. Model flow, transport and biomechanics particularly at the microscale and how this effects bacterial colony formation, morphology, and interaction between different bacteria and surfaces.

3. Use existing, and develop new, ecological and evolutionary models to develop parameters for community diversity, size and kinetics especially for specific desired functions.

4. Develop a set of design guidelines to produce organisms with novel desired functions using synthetic biology.

5. Build and run pilot scale reactors for model parameterisation, validation and testing of our ability to predict the behaviour

of natural or synthetic organisms in relation to desired functionalities such as micropollutant and lipid degradation.