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Professor Mike Bradley

Professor Michael Bradley BSc Hons, PhD

Professor Mike Bradley

Professor Michael S A Bradley
BSc Hons, PhD

Professor of Bulk and Particulate Technology, Director of The Wolfson Centre for Bulk Solids Handling Technology

Department of Applied Engineering and Management

Faculty of Engineering & Science

Professor Mike Bradley joined the University of Greenwich in 1988. He has held the post of professor of bulk and particulate technology since 2006 and director of The Wolfson Centre since 2000.  He has been responsible for the intellectual and commercial leadership of The Wolfson Centre since it was created in 1991, first as its manager, during which time the centre has grown steadily in the scope and volume of its activities to cover all aspects of the flow and handling of powders and bulk materials in the wide range of industries in which they are used.

Professor Bradley first entered the area of powders by undertaking a PhD in the design of industrial pneumatic conveying systems between 1985 and 1990; before this he worked in control system dynamics in the flight automation research laboratory of GEC Avionics. 

The crossover of instrumentation with powder handling and processing is one influence in his research, leading to novel methods of measurement of powder behaviour.  These include a new method for characterising the pneumatic conveying properties of powders, development of a suite of instruments for measuring the tendencies of powders to suffer from particle breakage, segregation and caking in storage and transport, an instrument to allow non-experts to measure the flow properties of powders, and an instrument that can detect bi-polar charge on powders.

He has looked at many other aspects of powder flow and behaviour, including hopper and silo design, electrostatics effects on powders, remediation of contaminated soil, wear protection for solids handling plants, and many other topics to do with improving the practical engineering of solids handling and processing operations.

Professor Bradley’s research has been supported by a number of grants from EPSRC , DEFRA , Oil Industry Technology Fund, British Coal Utilisation Research Association , DTI , Leverhulme. Most of his grants come from from industry, with over £2 million in cash in last 10 years, resulting in completion of 16 PhD students since 1997.

These and other research outputs have been exploited or embedded by many blue-chip companies and SMEs around the world.  Some of this has been through sale of instruments, for example, his powder flowability tester (marketed by Brookfield Viscometers) has been sold around the world, and in three years since launch has become the most popular instrument world-wide for measuring the shear properties of powders, with around 200 now in use.  Other companies have embedded the research by funding further projects to use the instruments, methods and facilities developed by Professor Bradley to research their powders and bulk solids, and improve their powder processing operations. Since 2008, more than 170 different companies have funded over 300 projects of varying sizes at The Wolfson Centre, to exploit and build on the research outputs. 

Professor Bradley’s work has touched almost every manufacturing industry, being embedded via funded projects in companies in diverse fields from mining, minerals and power generation to  powder metallurgy, food, chemicals, plastics , pharmaceuticals and many other sectors, as well as many companies who construct solids processing facilities.  He has also undertaken many expert witness assignments on litigation cases over cargo damage, equipment performance etc.

High profile appointments in advanced professional practice include membership of the design team responsible for the Drax Eco-Store project, a £90M conversion of the UK's largest coal fired power station to renewable fuel  for Shepherd Construction. 

Professor Bradley’s work has been recognised by various prizes including the Innovation in Bulk Solids Handling Prize of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and the Bulk Materials Handling Award of the same institution  in 2013 for services to the bulk solids handling community.  Other accolades have included shortlisting for the Times Higher Education award for Research Project of the Year  in2010 and IChemE Innovation Award in 2010.

Other appointments include fellowship of the Materials Handling Engineers Association, chairmanship of the Technical Committee and also membership of council of the Solids Handling and Processing Association (the official trade body for the solids handling equipment industry), member of the Bulk Materials Handling Committee of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, the European Federation of Chemical Engineers Working Party on the mechanics of particulate solids, the Particulate Engineering Committee of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, and the international scientific council of the triennial international conference on conveying and handling of particulate solids.

He was the co-organiser of the Indian 'Bulk Solids Handling Conference' (IMechE, 2011 and 2014), and organiser of many learned seminars on behalf of IMechE.  He is a member of various editorial boards including the prestigious Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and a founder member of the ISO Standardisation Committee TC 238 / WG4 / TG1 Safety Standards for Solid Biofuels.

  • Leadership of The Wolfson Centre team in research, consultancy and education
  • Member of executive committee of School of Engineering

2013: Bulk Solids Handling Award of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, for personal contribution to the field of bulk materials handling

2012: Principal investigator of international team receiving the Institution of Mechanical Engineers Bulk Materials Handling Award for Innovation, for development of the Brookfield powder flowability tester

2011: USA R&D Magazine,  R&D Top 100, for the powder flowability tester

2010: Shortlisting for Times Higher Education award Research Project of the Year, also shortlisting for IChemE Innovation Award for the powder flowability tester

2006: Member of the team receiving "Highly Commended" in IChemE Chemistry Innovation Award – 'Innovation in Applied Catalysis and Colloid Science for the Quality in Particulate Manufacturing' project

  • Chairman of Technical Committee of Solids Handling and Processing Association (SHAPA)
  • Member of Council of Solids Handling and Processing Association (SHAPA)
  • Member of editorial board of IMechE Journal of Process Mechanical Engineering
  • Member of international scientific council of the tri-ennial international conference on conveying and handling of particulate solids
  • Member of the European Federation of Chemical Engineers' workshop on the mechanics of particulate solids
  • Previously member of British Standards Institution technical panels MHE/9 Materials Handling and MHE/9/1 Pneumatic Conveying
  • Founder member of ISO standardisation committee TC 238 / WG4 / TG1, Safety Standards for Pelletised Biofuels

Professor Bradley's interests lie in the behaviour of powders and particulate materials.  Researching the science behind how they behave, developing characterisation techniques to measure how they behave, models to predict their behaviour in manufacturing and handling processes, and the use of these techniques in advanced professional practice for design of improved solids handling and processing systems in all industries that use powders and bulk materials.

Powders and bulk solids are critical to our lives, used in every manufacturing industry, from pharmaceuticals to coal mining and food to construction; yet their behaviour is still only loosely understood and there is vast work to do to improve the poor performance of industrial solids handling systems which lead to losses of billions world-wide in productivity. 

Professor Bradley's research, funded by many different bodies and also industry, has contributed many new techniques that have been applied to hundreds of industrial solids processing systems by not only blue chip companies from Glaxo SmithKline to Unilever and BP to United Biscuits, but also many SMEs processing metals, solid fuels, foods, plastics, waste etc.

In addition to research, Professor Bradley leads a very strong outreach effort from The Wolfson Centre, including training around 200 engineers from industry every year in solids handling technology, undertaking around 50 consulting projects of values from £500 to £100,000 each annually, and supporting around 30 conferences and seminars annually.  This is having a real effect on practice in the industry, with now well over 500 companies internationally having embedded his research results to improve their operations.

Funded research projects

The following three examples cover only a narrow part of the broad range of research conducted by Professor Bradley into powder behaviour and utilisation, and engineering of powder processing systems.  However, they serve to illustrate the significant depth of impact that his research has had, on a wide range of manufacturing and other industries that utilise powders. 

A particularly influential research project was the 'Development of an economic yet useful powder flowability measuring device' This was a  collaborative with six industry partners from Europe and the US which sought to deliver a novel instrument for measurement of powder flow properties, for purposes of powder formulation development and quality assurance.  Although powders are an input to almost every manufactured material and item and the flow properties of these powders affects their performance profoundly, previously the only instruments available for measuring the flow properties were either very expensive and requiring an expert to use them, or crude and without scientific link to the real powder behaviour in the plant.  The project successfully delivered a completely new design of instrument that is now sold around the world, and used by many blue-chip companies as an inherent part of their development and QA processes, from food, pharmaceutical and cosmetics to chemicals and minerals.

The project was strongly grounded in the practical powder processing problems, product development and QA requirements within the industrial collaborators  which were established by a thorough survey and analysis of their plant operations.  These were set against the existing knowledge of powder mechanics and established measurement techniques, and a new instrument conceived.  Much detailed research was undertaken to determine the optimum test cell geometry, testing protocol and data analysis methods. Testing was also carried out to ensure that the machine has very low dependency on user skill or technique, very good repeatability, that it can deal with all the many different patterns of powder behaviour that are seen in practice, and has a direct impact on the plant problems identified.  Much additional research was required to come up with the right mechanical, instrumentation and control arrangements to give the required high accuracy in a design suitable for high volume, low cost production.

In just three years since launch, this has become the most widely used tester in the world for measuring the shear properties of powders.  The project and the instrument have received many accolades, including the prestigious R&D 100 award of the US R&D magazine (www.rdmag.com/award-winners/2011/08/powder-flow-measurement-gets-twist), the 2012 Institution of Mechanical Engineers Innovation in Bulk Solids Handling award, and short listing for a Times Higher Education award and an IChemE Innovation award (2010). 

This project has continued to spawn further research projects, for example, DEFRA Advanced Food Manufacturing LINK project 'Control of Powder Flow Properties' which is developing a toolkit consisting of the powder flow tester, a software model and an operational protocol to allow manufacturers of engineered food powders to quickly optimise powder formulations to meet the necessary flow property window for efficient dispersion and processing.  Further research is expected to follow, due to the ongoing challenges that food and other powder manufacturers face in obtaining optimum process yield, consistency of quality and minimum cross-contamination. All of these are critically controlled by powder flow behaviour (including powder-surface interaction) which can now be studied much more quickly, efficiently and accurately thanks to the powder flowability tester.  A substantial and increasing flow of industrial consultancy in this topic has been established, currently around 30 projects per annum in The Wolfson Centre involving the use of the PFT in various aspects of powder development and process optimisation across diverse fields from minerals and powder metals to pharmaceuticals and petro-chemicals, as well as food.

Another particularly influential project was 'Handling Characteristics of Biomass/ Coal Mixes for Co firing: Measurement techniques and establishing benchmarks' which received a British Coal Utilisation research association grant and was supported by E-On, intended to identify key fuel handling issues at the time the UK power generation industry was just beginning to burn renewable solid fuels (biomass) for carbon reduction.  With many different candidate biomass materials under consideration, and early experience of expensive process stoppages and safety issues, this project was funded by the industry to uncover the fundamental relationships between the raw materials the processing, the effects of handling and the resulting handling and safety.

In addition to some important peer review papers, the new knowledge yielded by the project also resulted in a document Best Practice Guide for Handling of Coal and Coal/Biomass Mixes for Power Generation, endorsed by industry bodies the Solids Handling and Processing Association and the Materials Handling Engineers' Association, and also a comprehensive post-experience short course.  These embody a concise set of principles for power generators, biomass importers and logistics companies, plant constructors and maintenance personnel, covering such issues as reliable flow, dust hazards and how to contain them, occupational safety, material spoilage, self heating and fire, equipment selection and design, and a wide range of other technical issues relating to safe, efficient and economical operation of the biomass logistics chain from field to furnace.  The Best Practice Guide is in use in over 300 companies in 34 countries around the world, and the principles determined have been embodied in many of the large scale biomass conversions of coal-fired power plants, including the Drax Eco-Store, a£90 million project to convert the UK's largest coal fired station to biomass, for which Professor Bradley was a member of the principal design team. 

Industry has funded 31 follow-on projects in The Wolfson Centre on biomass.  These include further research on extreme shape particles, particle breakage and dust production in handling, and how these behaviours are influenced by the production conditions of the pellets. The centre also carries out consultancy, including for Tilbury, Uskmouth, Eggborough power stations, power generators Alstom, Vattenfall, E-On, RWE etc. and various ports, terminals and construction companies.  In many cases the project teams have appointed either Professor Bradley or one of his Wolfson Centre research team as a member or advisor, to ensure their system designs observe the principles identified.  In the last three years, more than 250 engineers from 80 companies in 13 countries have paid to attend the Wolfson Centre technical course 'Biomass Handling' arising from the original and spin-out projects, either at the university or as in-company courses in order to obtain the knowledge required to embed the design principles in their plants and projects.

Both research and consultancy in biomass handling and processing logistics are continuing to grow at The Wolfson Centre and this trend is likely to continue as the use of biomass for power generation and bio-fuel production around the world increases.

'Evaluation of Electrostatic Effects in Pharmaceutical Blend Processing' was a pharmaceutical industry-funded project which sought to investigate quantitatively the role of electrostatics versus other driving forces in a number of common powder handling issues, with particular reference to undesired segregation of active ingredients in blends, and coating of these on surfaces. These phenomena, which cost many millions of pounds a year of loss due to disposal of out-of specification blends, are often blamed on electrostatic effects, but little hard evidence was previously available to be confident about the relative effects of electrostatics versus other natural forces commonly controlling powder behaviour. Engineers in industry tended to have a lack of confidence in going forward with process changes, especially given the massive cost of re-validation of the processes following changes. 

The project involved the setting up of a unique facility at The Wolfson Centre in which electrostatic charging on powders could be measured and controlled, and the effects on flow and movement measured, all under controlled ambient conditions. 

The study included a series of real-world case studies in operating pharmaceutical plants, fundamental investigations in charge measurement and neutralisation in the lab, and significant pilot plant work. This revealed that in most cases of real processing systems in industry, segregation is not driven by electrostatics but by air flow effects. Adhesion of dust to plant surfaces that are not subject to sliding of bulk powder can be aided by electrostatics. This was a fundamental breakthrough, showing how these common problems need to be approached in order to solve them in real plants, and has led on to various follow-on projects funded by industry.

Equally significantly, the project led to suspicion that the powder blends in question are likely to contain bi-polar charge which was not detectable by measuring methods then available apart from one highly expensive and sophisticated method. 

Accordingly, further work (a PhD project) was funded from University investment to investigate whether it would be possible to measure bi-polar charges on powders using simple, lower-cost sensors by introducing novel data analysis methods.  The result has been a prototype instrument that is small and light-weight, potentially cheap to manufacture, and able to detect when a powder has both positive and negative charges present and quantify them.  Apart from two peer review papers describing this technique and its use, the prototype instrument has been tested by a major pharmaceutical manufacturer and found to give very useful insight into the charging behaviour of blends in real processing scenarios.  Currently, discussions are being held with an instrument manufacturer that sells electrostatic monitoring equipment, with a view to commercialising the instrument in the next couple of years.

Professor Bradley has published well over 50 refereed journal papers relating to a wide range of powder behaviour and use.  The following papers have been selected to illustrate just a few of the diverse range of fields that have been touched by his research in bulk solids:-

Pneumatic conveying and plant engineering

Bradley MSA, Farnish RJ, Deng T, Novel Developments in Characterisation of Materials and Pressure Drop Models for Simulation and Design of Pneumatic Conveying Systems, under review for Proc IMechE Part E: J. Process Mech. Eng

Macchini R, Bradley MSA, Deng T, Influence of particle size, density, particle concentration on bend erosive wear in pneumatic conveyors, Wear, Volume 303, Issues 1–2, 15 June 2013, Pages 21–29

Powder electrostatics

Hussain T, Kaialyb W, Deng T, Bradley MSA, Nokhodchib A, Armour-Chélu D, A novel sensing technique for measurement of magnitude and polarity of electrostatic charge distribution across individual particles, Int. J. Pharmaceutics, Volume 441, Issues 1–2, 30 January 2013, Pages 781–789

Powder metallurgy

Farnish RJ, Kulkarni P, Berry RJ, Bradley MSA, Guillebert V, Testing of Powders for Sensitivity to Air Effect Segregation, Powder Metallurgy, Volume 54, Number 4, September 2011 , pp. 468-470

Kulkarni PA, Berry RJ, Bradley MSA, Review of the flowability measuring techniques for powder metallurgy industry, Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part E: Journal of Process Mechanical Engineering August 1, 2010 vol. 224 no. 3 159-168

Food manufacture

Ermis E, Farnish RJ Berry R, Bradley MSA , Centrifugal tester versus a novel design to measure particle adhesion strength and investigation of effect of physical characteristics (size, shape, density) of food particles on food surfaces. Journal of Food Engineering Volume 104, Issue 4, June 2011, Pages 518–524

Ermis E, Farnish RJ, Berry RJ, Bradley MSA; Direct Measurement of Powder Flavour Adhesion onto Crisp Surfaces using a Novel Adhesion Tester. Particulate Science and Technology, 27:4; 362 – 372; July 2009

Pharmaceuticals manufacturing

Deng T, Paul KA, Bradley MSA, Immins L, Preston C, Scott JF, Welfare EH, Investigations on air induced segregation of pharmaceutical powders and effect of material flow functions, Powder Technology Volume 203, Issue 2, 10 November 2010, Pages 354–358

Environmental remediation

Robinson JP, Kingman SW, Snape CE, Bradshaw SM, Bradley MSA, Shanga H, Barranco R, Scale-up and design of a continuous microwave treatment system for the processing of oil-contaminated drill cuttings, Chemical Engineering Research and Design Volume 88, Issue 2, February 2010, Pages 146–154

Robinson, J.P., Kingman, S.W., Snape, C.E., Barranco, R., Shang, H. and Bradley, M.S.A. (2009) Remediation of oil-contaminated drill cuttings using continuous microwave heating.  Chemical Engineering Journal, 152 (2-3). pp. 458-463. ISSN 1385-8947

Plant wear

Deng T, Farnish RJ. Bradley MSA, Evaluation of particle degradation due to high-speed impacts in a pneumatic handling system, Particulate Science and Technology, Volume 26, Issue 5, Sep 2008

Deng, Tong, Bingley, Mark S., Bradley, Michael S.A. and De Silva, S.R. (2008). A comparison of the gas-blast and centrifugal-accelerator erosion testers: the influence of particle dynamics, Wear, 265 (7-8). pp. 945-955. ISSN 0043-1648

Powder characterisation

Berry RJ, Bradley MSA, Investigation of the effect of test procedure factors on the failure loci and derived failure functions obtained from annular shear cells, Powder Technology, 174, (2007), 60-63

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Professor Bradley has published over 80 high quality conference papers. Below is a selected handful from some of his recent output.

MSA Bradley, RJ Farnish, Advances in Biomass Handling and Storage at Ports and Terminals, Dry Bulk Terminals Group annual conference, Santander, Spain, 23-24 September 2013

MSA Bradley, MM Abdulmumini, The Effects of Fines Content and Lengths of Wood Pellets on Bulk Density, International Conference on Bulk Materials Handling, Newcastle, Australia, July 2013

MSA Bradley, RJ Farnish, Biomass Handling and Storage Challenges : Safety and Economics of Biomass Handling and Storage, European Biomass to Power conference 2013, London, April 2013

MSA Bradley, RJ Farnish, RJ Berry,  Managing Safety and Functionality Challenges with Biomass Handling Projects: An Integrated Approach, Bulk 2013 Conference, Materials Handling Engineers Association, Scunthorpe, UK, May 2013

Bradley MSA, Farnish RJ, Berry RJ, An Integrated Approach to Bulk Solids Characterisation and Prediction of Behaviour for Plant Design and Troubleshooting; Conveying and Handling of Particulate Solids, Friedrichshafen, Germany; Sept 2012

Farnish RJ, Kulkarni P, Berry RJ, Bradley MSA, Guillebert V; Testing of powders for sensitivity to air effect segregation;; EPMA 2010, Florence, Italy; Oct 2010

Farnish RJ, Kulkarni P, Berry RJ, Bradley MSA; Determination of the sensitivity of powders to segregation generated from counter-directional air flows; WCPT6/2010 conference/ PowTech 2010 exhibition; Nuremberg, Germany; April 2010

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