News release

Southampton ‘StarStream’ cleaning technology wins prestigious award

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03 December 2012

Professor Leighton (left) and Dr Birkin with their device

A novel ultrasonic technology invented by researchers at the University of Southampton, which enhances the ability of water to clean, has been recognised at the 2012 Institute of Chemical Engineers Awards.

‘StarStream’ won the Veolia Water Management and Supply category against stiff competition from major companies, including GlaxoSmithKline and Scottish Water. It was the potential of StarStream to generate significant savings in water use in a range of cleaning applications that excited the judges.

Doctors Peter Birkin and Doug Offin from Chemistry and Professor Tim Leighton from the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research travelled to Manchester to receive their award from TV presenter Colin Murray.

Also in attendance was John Melville, Managing Director of Ultrawave Ltd, a specialist supplier of ultrasonic cleaning equipment. Ultrawave spotted the potential of the technology and have been collaborating with the University team to develop StarStream for industrial cleaning applications. John Melville says: “Our clients are constantly looking to save time, energy and water in their cleaning processes and StarStream represents the only true technological leap forward in ultrasonic cleaning that we have seen for decades. We are excited to be working with Southampton to take the technology to market.”

StarStream is an example of breakthrough technologies emerging from the UK science base and is the first time that an ultrasonic wave has been propagated down a free flowing stream of water. Dr Birkin says: “The technology was born of a multidisciplinary collaboration and has come about from a sustained effort to understand the fundamental processes which underpin the technology. It is vital for the success of disruptive technologies, such as StarStream, to be recognised in this way in order to raise the profile and attract interest and investment.”

StarStream is not a stranger to winning awards and in 2011 Professor Leighton and Dr Birkin received the Royal Society Brian Mercer Award for Innovation. Professor Leighton adds: “This award enabled us to continue developing the technology towards real-world applications. With the support of collaborators such as Ultrawave and recognition from institutions like the Institute for Chemical Engineers, we are hopeful that StarStream will make an impact on the world.”

For commercial enquiries relating to StarStream, including opportunities for collaborative R&D and licensing, please contact Adam Irvine, Technology Transfer Manager at the University of Southampton, on 023 8059 8582 or email

Watch a promotional video here.