A rational and mathematical understanding of the science behind cleaning and decontamination problems

Cleaning and decontamination problems are ubiquitous in all human activities: from household cleaning to maintaining hygiene standards in the food and pharmaceutic industry, and safe removal of toxic materials. It is a universal topic of national and international importance. There is also an increasing need to rationalise scientifically the underlying physical, chemical and biological processes involved in cleaning and decontamination.

The aims of the 2021 Workshop on Cleaning were:

(i) To map expertise and current activities in the area of cleaning and decontamination in the UK and beyond, in all relevant disciplines, and particularly those where quantitative methods are employed as this supports the transfer of solutions or approaches from one field to another.

(ii) To provide a forum where industrial and governmental stakeholders can share aspects of future needs, both immediate and long term.

(iii) To identify strategic needs for research, which could take the form of modelling methods, measurement techniques, socio-economic trends, or metrics for assessing and quantifying the impact of cleaning and decontamination operations and challenges.

(iv) To ensure that the workshop materials will be freely available as an archive for all workers in the area.


The workshop took the form of a 2.5 day online meeting, run on the Sococo platform with keynote presentations on Zoom, from 20th-22nd April 2021. A follow up hybrid meeting was held on 20th September 2021 at Jesus College, Cambridge, with participation in person and online.


The online workshop brought together a cross-disciplinary panel of experts and key stakeholders in related fields, with participation from academics, government agencies, and industry. The workshop consisted of keynote presentations addressing various topics and themes, short contributed talks, posters and discussion groups.

Follow Up

Jesus College Cambridge

40 participants from the April Workshop joined online or in-person for a one-day roadmapping activity at Jesus College, Cambridge. The key activities, expertise and needs discussed at the April Workshop were summarised. Short term and long term strategies to address current and future needs were discussed and finalised in a roadmap document.


Worth Calfee

Development of capabilities to support large-scale biological incident response operations

US Environmental Protection Agency

modcad speaker - connor collins

Cleaning of manufacturing equipment in Pharma – current approaches and challenges


Sam Collins

Decontaminating people

Public Health England

modcad speaker - peter fryer

Scaling up (and scaling down) cleaning

University of Birmingham

modcad speaker - dennis heldman

Current research on cleaning and sanitation in food manufacturing facilities

Ohio State University


Sellafield Ltd

modcad speaker - julien landel

Fluid mechanics of cleaning and decontamination

University of Manchester

Omar Matar

Numerical simulations of multiphase flows in the presence of surfactants

Imperial College London

modcad speaker - luis melo

Biofilms disinfection and cleaning – an overview

University of Porto

modcad speaker - Martin Seed

Respiratory hazards in healthcare cleaning

UK NHS – University of Manchester

modcad speaker - jim taylour

Ramblings on the business angle: what suppliers and cleaners need. How do we get cleaning right?

Chemical Consulting Solutions Ltd

Allister Theobald

The business angle

Warwick Chemicals – Lubrizol Corporation

Contributed talks & posters

Along with the 12 keynote speakers above, 17 UK and international scientists presented their latest research findings on cleaning and decontamination problems. The short talks and posters listed below show the breadth and depth of the scientific research related to cleaning and decontamination.

A simple model for desulphurisation of flue gas using reactive filters

University of Oxford

Interfacial instabilities during microchannel cleaning with a viscoelastic fluid

University College London

Surface-washing of contaminated porous substrates

University of Cambridge

Hydrogel models to study contaminant trapping in polymers

University of Cambridge

Advances and challenges towards a predictive model for cleaning very thin viscoplastic soil layers using impinging liquid jets

University of Cambridge

Usability of results from micromanipulation experiments to get critical loads for adhesive and cohesive removal of soils

Technische Universität Dresden

Droplet dynamics on liquid infused surfaces

Durham University

Characterizing Hazard Mitigation Efficacy for Different Agent Distributions

U.S. Army DEVCOM Chemical Biological Center, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD

How a water drop removes a particle from a hydrophobic surface

Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research, Mainz, Germany

Green nanomaterials for environmental decontamination

The University of Sheffield

Roles of surface wetting and bulk mass transport in the contamination of polyurethane-based coatings by distilled mustard blister agent, HD

U.S. Army DEVCOM Chemical Biological Center, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD

Cleaning in a bag

University of Twente

Development and Application of Model for Decontamination of Polymer-Based Materials

U.S. Army DEVCOM Chemical Biological Center, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD

Robots, Sensors and Artificial Intelligence: How can digital technologies improve cleaning processes?

University of Nottingham

Concept for a self-learning adaptive tank cleaning strategy

Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging (IVV)

Cleaning by microbubbles generated by fluidic oscillation with and without plasma injection

The University of Shefield

Workshop outlook

The workshop has provided a survey of the expertise and know-how across scientific disciplines related to cleaning and decontamination and its modelling. Many applications share the same underpinning fundamental science, which is complex and multidisciplinary. Some of the science is quite advanced, but there are also clear gaps both at fundamental level, and in their implementation. The key outcomes of the workshop are:

  • A roadmap document which identifies the state-of-the-art, and proposes a roadmap to address the key knowledge gaps on cleaning and decontamination science and how to implement them in practice
  • The website How clean is clean? presents the science behind cleaning. Its resources are both for the general public and experts in the subject area. It will be updated with new resources over time. It will also feature key events on the topic, such as conferences and workshops.

Organisers & Sponsors

The Workshop was supported by an EPSRC Workshop Grant (EP/T033991/1 & EP/V000012/1)

Dr Graham Christie (University of Cambridge)
Prof. Peter Fryer (University of Birmingham)
Dr Ian Hall (University of Manchester)
Dr Julien Landel (University of Manchester)
Prof. Kath Whitehead (Manchester Metropolitan University)
Prof. Ian Wilson (University of Cambridge, Host Organiser)

Special thanks to…

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