Dr Iain Burns

Senior Lecturer

Chemical and Process Engineering

Personal statement

My research involves the development and application of optical techniques for the characterisation of reacting flows.  We use light sources ranging from compact diode lasers and LEDs to high-power pulsed lasers.  This experimental work is supported by data analysis and modelling to extract physically meaningful information from the measured signals.

We use these techniques to investigate the formation of soot in combustion processes.  Soot (also known as black carbon) is a significant agent of climate forcing. Experimental characterisation of well-defined laboratory flames is essential to understanding the mechanism of soot formation and thus to predict and minimise its emission from combustion processes. 


Has expertise in:

    I lead research on the development and application of custom measurement techniques for imaging reacting flows, including under harsh conditions of luminosity, turbidity and high temperature.  This includes measurement of:

    • Temperature
    • Concentration of trace gases
    • Concentration of particulates
    • Particle size

    This has obvious relevance to a wide range of industrial problems and we are keen to build new partnerships to exploit these possibilities. 


MEng Chemical Engineering (University of Strathclyde)

PhD Chemical Engineering (University of Cambridge)


In-situ photoacoustic measurement of soot profiles in laminar flames using a high repetition-rate pulsed fibre laser
Humphries Gordon S, Roy Robert, Black John D, Lengden Michael, Burns Iain S
Applied Physics B: Lasers and Optics Vol 125 (2019)
CIDAR project - development of a non-intrusive capability for aircraft engine measurements
Archilla V, Aragón G, Wright P, Ozanyan K, Black J, Lengden M, Burns I, Johnstone W, Polo V, Beltran M, Johnson M
Aerosol Technology (2018)
CIDAR : combustion species imaging diagnostics for aero-engine research
Archilla V, Aragón G, Wright P, Ozanyan K, Black J, Polydorides N, McCann H, Lengden M, Burns I, Johnstone W, Polo V, Beltran M, Mauchline I, Walsh D, Johnson M
Aerosol Technology (2018)
Some aspects of the mechanism of formation of smoke from the combustion of wood
Atiku Farooq, Lea-Langton Amanda, Bartle Keith, Jones Jenny, Williams Alan, Burns Iain, Humphries Gordon Samuel
Energy and Fuels Vol 31, pp. 1935-1944 (2017)
Filtration suppresses laser-induced nucleation of glycine in aqueous solutions
Javid Nadeem, Kendall Thomas, Burns Iain S, Sefcik Jan
Crystal Growth and Design Vol 16, pp. 4196−4202 (2016)
Temperature imaging in low pressure flames using diode laser two-line atomic fluorescence employing a novel indium seeding technique
Borggren Jesper, Burns Iain S, Sahlberg Anna-Lena, Aldén Marcus, Li Zhongshan
Applied Physics B: Lasers and Optics Vol 122 (2016)

more publications


I currently teach mass transfer, vapour-liquid separations and adsorption processes to Year 3 and process measurements to final year MEng students.

I supervise research and industrial projects for full-time and distance-learning MEng and MSc students, chemical engineering design projects and undergraduate summer research projects.

I have previously lectured on process design, engineering maths, thermodynamics and chemical reactor engineering so I have broad experience of teaching the core components of the Chemical Engineering undergraduate curriculum.

Research interests

  • Laser induced fluorescence
  • Cavity ring-down spectroscopy
  • Laser induced incandescence
  • Light scattering
  • Combustion
  • Laminar flames
  • Temperature measurement
  • Trace gas detection
  • Soot and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
  • Direct flame fuel cells
  • Crystallisation

Professional activities

Strathclyde Adsorption Summer School 2019
Keynote/plenary speaker
Strathclyde Adsorption Summer School 2018
Keynote/plenary speaker
Strathclyde Adsorption Summer School 2017
Keynote/plenary speaker

more professional activities


Doctoral Training Partnership 2018-19 University of Strathclyde | Andrews, Timothy
Burns, Iain (Principal Investigator) Andreu, Aurik (Co-investigator) Andrews, Timothy (Research Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2019 - 01-Jan-2023
CIDAR for CleanSky 2 (Combustion species Imaging Diagnostics for Aero-engine Research)
Lengden, Michael (Principal Investigator) Burns, Iain (Co-investigator) Johnstone, Walter (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2018 - 31-Jan-2020
2016 EPSRC Doctoral Prize - Intra-Cavity Photo-acoustic Gas Sensing
Humphries, Gordon Samuel (Principal Investigator) Lengden, Michael (Academic) Burns, Iain (Academic)
The monitoring of trace gases at low concentration is of vital importance across a range of areas (pollutant emission measurement, process control, medical diagnostics). NOx pollution has attracted significant attention, due to the increase in diesel and nitrogen-based bio-fuels usage and the misrepresentation of pollutant levels in the automotive industry. This project will develop a highly sensitive optical sensor targeting nitric oxide (NO), which is an atmospheric pollutant and a pre-cursor to NO2, contributing to significant numbers of UK deaths per annum. Current measurement techniques cannot accurately measure NO and NO2 concentration in the atmosphere at the levels considered dangerous. As its harmful effects become increasingly apparent there is a pressing need for a step change in sensor technology, requiring two orders of magnitude improvement in sensitivity to levels lower than 500 parts per trillion (ppt) and providing improved data for analysis of pollutant species in environmental modelling.
To meet this need we will combine research from Strathclyde and Oxford University to develop a novel gas sensor, integrating the world-leading expertise from both institutions; Strathclyde- considerable expertise in cavity-based optical absorption and photoacoustic techniques for gas detection; Oxford – expertise in an advanced optical technique (optical-feedback-cavity- enhanced absorption spectroscopy - OF-CEAS). The integration of these two techniques has the potential to provide a sensitivity increase of two orders of magnitude, which translates to minimum detection sensitivities of NO and NO2 of 50ppt and 5ppt respectively, well within the range required for practical applications.
01-Jan-2017 - 28-Jan-2018
In-situ Chemical Measurement and Imaging Diagnostics for Energy Process Engineering (Platform Grant)
Johnstone, Walter (Principal Investigator) Burns, Iain (Co-investigator) Lengden, Michael (Co-investigator) Stewart, George (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2016 - 30-Jan-2021
Burns, Iain (Principal Investigator) Thennadil, Suresh (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2014 - 30-Jan-2017
Laser-induced nucleation for crystallisation of high-value materials in continuous manufacturing processes
Sefcik, Jan (Principal Investigator) Burns, Iain (Co-investigator)
"Batch processing in tanks is the favoured method in industry for manufacture of high-value solid chemicals, such as agrochemicals, dyes and pharmaceuticals. There are a number of disadvantages to batch processing: large amounts of material are committed to each stage; failure can cause loss of the entire batch; there can be large variations in batch repeatability; and it is difficult to scale-up to larger volumes due to limitations on heat flow. Continuous flow manufacture in pipelines offers significant improvements over batch processing: continual processing of small volumes reduces risks in process failures; it is greener technology because it produces less waste; throughput can be increased; capital and running costs are lower; higher surface areas make it easier to heat and cool processes. A grand challenge in implementing continuous flow manufacture is handling of solids, in particular nucleation of fine crystals. Properties of the solid, such as size, shape and internal structure of crystals have enormous effects on their suitability, e.g., as drugs, pesticides, fertilizers. These properties can be difficult to control. Mixing and shear changes the fluid's readiness to grow crystals.

Our research programme aims to improve on current methods for crystallisation in continuous flow by using short, intense pulses of laser light to induce nucleation at specific points and times in the tubes of a continuous flow reactor. So far our laser-induced crystallisation method has been studied in the laboratory using only static sample vials and droplets. We therefore need to study our technique under mixing and flow conditions. Our objective is to demonstrate that our method can grow crystals at different locations where the fluid conditions favour certain crystal shapes, sizes and structures. Such techniques are not already available to industry. Even fractional improvements through this method could yield substantial improvements in the quality of solids, and could encourage industry to switch to continuous flow for more processes. Of course we do not claim that this will be a magic bullet to solve all challenges for continuous manufacture of high-value solids. However, we believe that the technique could stand to make significant savings and improvements in some processes, e.g., in the pharmaceutical industry.

To make our programme relevant to the needs of industry, our project will embark on collaboration with a recently formed consortium for Continuous Manufacture and Crystallisation (CMAC). This group have secured significant investment through government (EPSRC), seven universities, three top-tier global-scale manufacturers (GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Novartis), and another 28 industrial partners. CMAC aims to accelerate the adoption of continuous manufacturing processes, systems and plants for the production of pharmaceuticals and fine-chemicals to higher levels of quality, with lower costs, more quickly, and in a more sustainable manner. Our collaboration will ensure that industry leaders have fast and direct access to the outcomes of our research programme."
12-Jan-2014 - 11-Jan-2015

more projects


Chemical and Process Engineering
James Weir Building

Location Map

View University of Strathclyde in a larger map