The University of Southampton
Engineering and the Environment

Professor Timothy Leighton FREng FRS MA PhD CPhys CEng FCPS FInstP FIOA FASA

Professor of Ultrasonics and Underwater Acoustics

Professor Timothy Leighton FREng FRS's photo
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We need to work with rigour, imagination, and wonder, unconstrained by the artificial boundaries set in place by discipline names, or the history of projects in which we have previously worked, or the tendency of sponsors to believe they can pick winners, or above all by the belief that we must jump to solutions when we have not yet perceived the real problem. Then, when we eventually do find a solution, we must have the will to push it through all the way to help others, and not simply publish in the expectation that someone will finish the job for us.

Current position

Timothy Leighton is Professor of Ultrasonics and Underwater Acoustics withing Engineering and the Environment at the University of Southampton, UK. He is the founding Chairman of the University Strategic Research Group NAMRIP (Network for Anti-Microbial Resistance and Infection Prevention) and founding Chairman of HEFUA (Health Effects of Ultrasound in Air).

He has invented numerous devices for healthcare, catastrophe relief and industry (click here for details). For details of StarStream, click here

A sample lecture on Acoustic Bubbles
Publications for download

Honours and awards

2016 Awarded the 2016 ‘Wow Factor and Impact’ prize at the 2016 ‘Bringing Research to Life’ roadshow awards for NAMRIP contribution to Cheltenham Science Festival (click here for details)
2016 Awarded “Excellent Reviewers of 2016” by IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering
2015 Commissioned by The Royal Society to write an article to celebrate the 350th anniversary since its first publications (click here for details of the study; and click here to download the paper for free).
2014  StarStream awarded 'Best New Product of the Year' (click here for details)
2014 Fellowship of the Royal Society (click here for details)
2014 The Rayleigh Medal of the Institute of Acoustics (click here for details)
2014 The second most downloaded paper of 2013 from the Royal Society’s Proceedings A (click here for details)
2013 Selected inclusion in Who's Who from 2014 onwards (click here for article and click Radio interview on BBC Solent under useful downloads) 
2013    The Helmholtz-Rayleigh Interdisciplinary Silver Medal (Acoustical Society of America), awarded for contributions to Biomedical Acoustics, Physical Acoustics, and Acoustical Oceanography(click here for details) (click here for citation)
2012  The 2012 Institute of Chemical Engineering Award for "Water Management and Supply" (click here for details)
2012 Fellowship of the Royal Academy of Engineering (click here for details)
2011 The Brian Mercer Award for Innovation (The Royal Society) (click here for details)
2010 Awarded “Excellent Reviewers of 2010” by IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering (click herefor details)
2009 Awarded “Excellent Reviewers of 2009” by IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering (click here for details)
2009  R W B Stephens Medal of the Institute of Acoustics
2008 The ‘Medical & Healthcare' award by ‘The Engineer' (click here for details)
2006 Paterson Medal and Prize of the Institute of Physics (click here for details)
2004 Inaugural Early Career Medal and Award, International Commission of Acoustics
2002 Tyndall Medal of the Institute of Acoustics
2001 Inaugural award of the International Medwin Prize for Acoustical Oceanography (Acoustical Society of America) (click here for details)
2000 Royal Society Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship
2000 Fellowship of the Institute of Physics
1999 Fellowship of the Institute of Acoustics
1998 Fellowship of the Acoustical Society of America
1994 AB Wood Medal of the Institute of Acoustics
1988 Fellowship of the Cambridge Philosophical Society

PhD Studentship: Determining gas flux through the seabed using active and passive seismology and optical techniques

For more infromation please visit the job advert




Stories in the media

Career History


Research interests

Professor Leighton is founder and Chair of two research groupings, NAMRIP (the Network for AntiMicrobial resistance and Infection Prevention) and HEFUA (Health Effects of Ultrasound in Air). He is also interested in the following topics (example projects from which can be found at the base of this page):

Acoustical oceanography Antimicrobial resistance
Biomedical ultrasound Carbon capture and storage
Clean water and safe sewage Climate change
Decontamination De-mining conflict zones
Health effects of ultrasound Hospital acquired infections
Infection prevention Marine zoology
Planetary probes and exploration Survivor retrieval
Ultrasound Underwater acoustics

 Details of the impact of his work can be found here.


Research group(s)

Acoustics Group

Research project(s)

Do dolphins think nonlinearly?

The sounds of voices and waterfalls on other planets

Invention outperforms clinicians monitoring kidney treatment in patients

StarStream (2007-2015) - Cleaning with low volumes of cold water

StarSteam (2016 onwards)

Detecting leaks from undersea gas pipelines, seabed methane reserves, and carbon capture and storage facilities

Whales hunt with wall of sound

Bubble detectors invented for the USA's Oak Ridge National Laboratory $1.4 billion Spallation Neutron Source

Order to chaos and back again

Dolphin-inspired radar for finding bombs, bugs and catastrophe victims

World's first experiment tests for leaks from carbon capture and storage seabed facilities

The Adhesion Rail Riddle - Ensuring Trains Can Brake

Are some people suffering as a result of increasing mass exposure of the public to ultrasound in air?

Man-made underwater sound may have wider ecosystem effects than previously thought

Clean water and green energy from waste using bubble acoustics

StarSaver - cleaning wounds when water is scarce



Book Section(s)




Title Module Code Programme Roe
Underwater Acoustics¹ ISVR3065 Acoustical Engineering Acoustics & Module Coordinator
Underwater Acoustics¹ ISVR6037 MSc Sound & Vibration Studies Coordinator

Tim’s lecturing varies in style from formal lectures, to discussions exploring particular questions amongst groups containing class members as diverse as medics, engineers, zoologists, chemists and physicists.

Tim’s lecturing varies in style form formal lectures, to discussions exploring particular questions amongst groups containing class members as diverse as medics, engineers, zoologists, chemists and physicists. The two example videos below show (top panel) a formal lecture, and (lower/left panel) a discussion to teach some basic principles of ocean acoustics by enabling to group of students to work out why an assassin duck would fail in certain weather conditions.

Career history

Having obtained a Magdalene College Scholarship to study for his first degree, he graduated in 1985 from the University of Cambridge with a Double First Class Degree in Physics and Theoretical Physics, and the highest mark of the year for an experimental project. He obtained a PhD at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, in 1988. He was then awarded Senior and Advanced Research Fellowships at Magdalene College (Cambridge University) and the Engineering and Physics and Science Research Council (EPSRC), which included three periods of work at the Institut de Machines Hydrauliques et de Mecanique des Fluides (Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland).

Then, at the age of 28, he joined ISVR as Lecturer in Underwater Acoustics, and in the same year (1992) he completed the monograph The Acoustic Bubble (Academic Press), and at 35 he was awarded a Personal Chair.  After serving a chair of Acoustics, he became Associate Deam with the responsibility for Research in the Faculty of Engineering and the Environment, and led the REF2014 submission which was ranked not only the most powerful in the UK in the category of General Engineering, but also the most powerful entry in the UK in any branch of engineering (click here for details). He has now stepped down for that position in order to found and lead NAMRIP and HEFUA


He is author of over 400 other publications (available here), and appears on radio and TV across the world (available here). A précis of the impact following from his research activity can be found here.

He has served on advisory groups including:

  • Founding Chairman, Health Effects of Ultrasound in AIr (HEFUA)
  • Founding Chairman, Network on Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Prevention (NAMRIP)
  • Government of the United Kingdom's Working Group of the Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies Sub Group
  • Scientific Expert Group of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection
  • Defence Scientific Advisory Council (DSAC), Ministry of Defence (MoD)
  • World Federation of Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology Safety Work Group
  • Ministry of Defence Brains Trust, under the MoD Science and Technology Rapid Assistance to Operations (STRATOS) programme
  • Maritime Mine Countermeasures Workgroup, DSAC, MoD
  • Scoping Group on Ultrasound and Infrasound Safety, Health Protection Agency
  • Work Group 22 of Accredited Standards Committee S1 of Acoustical Society of America.


Professor Timothy Leighton FREng FRS
Engineering and the Environment University of Southampton Highfield Southampton SO17 1BJ

Room Number: 13/2007

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