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

Professor of Ultrasonics and Underwater Acoustics

Professor Timothy Leighton's photo

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 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 is also Professor of Ultrasonics and Underwater Acoustics within Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Southampton, UK.

He has invented numerous devices for healthcare, catastrophe relief and industry (for more information visit Bubble acoustics). He is Inventor-in-Chief and Director of Sloan Water Technology Ltd., a UK company formed by the purchase of his patents from the University of Southampton with premises at Chilworth, Hampshire.

A sample lecture on Acoustic Bubbles
Publications for download
Downloads of Video and audio appearances of Professor Leighton



  • Kenward, M. (2017) A talent for bursting bubbles. Ingenia, 73, 38-42
  • Webb, J. (2016) Resistance fighter takes the battle to microbes, New Scientist 229(3066), 32-33 (doi: 10.1016/S0262-4079(16)30523-1)
  • Wikipedia: Timothy Leighton (page started by The Royal Society)
  • Citation for Helmholtz-Rayleigh Interdisciplinary Silver Medal ‘for contributions to physical acoustics, biomedical ultrasound, sonochemistry, and acoustical oceanography’. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (Montreal, Canada)., Vol. 133, No. 5, Pt. 2 (2013), pp. 3476-3478.



2018 The Clifford Paterson Medal of the Royal Society
2014 The Rayleigh Medal of the Institute of Acoustics
2013 The Helmholtz-Rayleigh Interdisciplinary Silver Medal (Acoustical Society of America), awarded for contributions to Biomedical Acoustics, Physical Acoustics, and Acoustical Oceanography. Citation
2009  R W B Stephens Medal of the Institute of Acoustics
2006 Paterson Medal and Prize of the Institute of Physics
2004 Inaugural Early Career Medal and Award, International Commission of Acoustics
2002 Tyndall Medal of the Institute of Acoustics
1994 AB Wood Medal of the Institute of Acoustics


 * Indicates a National Academy

2018 Inaugural Distinguished Fellow of the International Institute of Acoustics and Vibration
2018 Fellowship of the Academy of Medical Sciences*
2014 Fellowship of the Royal Society*
2012 Fellowship of the Royal Academy of Engineering*
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
1988 Fellowship of the Cambridge Philosophical Society

Other Awards


2019  Doctor of Science of Cambridge University
2017 Awarded the 2017 ‘Wow Factor and Impact’ prize at the 2017 ‘Bringing Research to Life’ roadshow awards for NAMRIP exhibition ‘The Most Dangerous Game in the World’.
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
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. Downloaded 12,000 times in its first year. Find out more details about the study.
2014 The second most downloaded paper of 2013 from the Royal Society’s Proceedings A
2013 Selected inclusion in Who's Who from 2014 onwards (click here for Radio interview on BBC Solent)
2010 Awarded “Excellent Reviewers of 2010” by IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering
2009 Awarded “Excellent Reviewers of 2009” by IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering

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.

 Other research projects

StarHealer: Project Navrongo

Development and evaluation of new technology to treat minor trauma in community-based healthcare

Research group

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

StarStream (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

Bubble Management in an Ultrasonic System to Clean using a Water Stream

The StarStream device cleans using only room temperature water, ultrasound and air. This CASE award studentship, funded by EPSRC and Ultrawave Ltd., examines method of improving the StarStream by looking at the engineering associated with the water supply components of the device. This entails the design and construction of new bubble diagnostics technology.

Interdependencies between biological communities, their activities and the sediment environment in determining the acoustic properties of the shelf seafloor

The influence of surfactants on the mechanisms of ocean bubble formation

It is known that bubbles are important for the fluxes of gas and particles across the air-sea interface, as well as for the acoustical properties of the upper ocean and on ocean optics.   Currently, very little is known about the effect of natural surfactants on ocean bubble production, and the consequences of these surfactants for gas and particle fluxes.  The aim of this project is to understand the effects of surfactants on the detailed physics of bubble formation, and then to make measurements at sea to compare with the predicted physical changes.   The lab experiment is a tank built to watch bubbles fragment in turbulence.   The water properties (temperature, salinity, surfactant content and particulate content) can be varied to study bubble formation in different environment.   Acoustical and photographic data are used to follow many fragmentation events (usually 500-1000 for each set of conditions), and overall result is a set of fragmentation statistics.   This includes the frequency of fragmentation events, the number and size of bubbles produced in each event and some information about the dynamics of the events.   Comparing these will allow predictions for how bubble production under breaking waves will be affected by differing conditions, and this will lead to predictions for how gas and particle fluxes will also change.

The effects of sound on fish

A number of studies have determined how fish respond to various sounds, to provide the basic knowledge needed to protect fish, and design ‘acoustic scarecrows’. This work is led by the International Centre for Ecohydraulics Research (ICER) (Prof Kemp), with Prof White and Prof Leighton from ISVR providing the acoustics input.

Signal processing for underwater acoustics

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Book Chapters


Creative Media and Artefacts

Journal Special Issue




Working Paper

Title Module Code Programme Roe
Ocean Acoustics & Biomedical Ultrasound ISVR3070 Module Lead

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). In 2015 stepped down from that position in order to found and lead NAMRIP and HEFUA. In 2016 he founded Global-NAMRIP, in order to combat infection and AntiMicrobial Resistance in Low- and Middle-Income Countries. In 2018 a new UK manufacturing and R&D company, Sloan Water Technology Ltd., was founded, based on the sale to that company by the University of Southampton of the patents he had written' He is Inventor-in-Chief and a Director of the company, which has hired aspiring young researchers to develop devices for a range of markets. The company is also the main sponsor of Global-NAMRIP.


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, Global-NAMRIP
  • Chair, Sectional Committee 4 of the Royal Society
  • 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
Engineering, University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton. SO17 1BJ United Kingdom

Room Number : 13/2007

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