Advanced Materials Research Group

Every article, instrument, machine or device we use depends for its success upon materials, design and effective production
We work on a wide range of materials topics including new material development, optimising of materials processing, testing and evaluation at component scale and at high spatial resolution, modelling and failure analysis. Much of our work is related to materials and processes for renewable energy generation, energy efficiency, carbon capture and storage. We also use biological and bio-inspired processes to develop new functional materials.

Staff

Professor Steve Bull, Cookson Group Chair of Materials Engineering (Group Head) – High spatial resolution mechanics. Development and testing of compliant and porous materials. Sustainable materials use.

Dr Lidija Siller, Reader in Nanoscale Science and Technology - physics and chemistry at solid surfaces. Optical, electronic and structural properties of nanoscale materials. Electron and photon stimulated desorption in ices

Dr Daniel Frankel - biorobotics, artificial viruses and novel biomaterials

Dr Alasdair Charles - corrosion and electrochemistry of alloys used in the power-generating industry and in pipeline systems. High temperature measurements of pH and potential. Environment assisted cracking from hydrogen embrittlement through to corrosion fatigue.

Dr Katarina Novakovic - chemical systems that exhibit oscillatory behaviour in pH and reaction heat output and their applications to smart materials, development of biomimetic

Achievements

Since 2008 we have:

• Won over£3M in research funding from EPSRC, EU and Industry.
• Published more than 90 papers in refereed journals and conference proceedings
• Graduated more than 20 PhD students
• Delivered more than 40 invited, keynote and plenary talks at International Conferences including most recently a plenary at Nanoscale Multilayers, Madrid 2013 (Bull)

Bull is the 2013 recipient of the Tribology Silver Medal presented by the Tribology Trust. This is the top national award in this area.

 

Current Research Projects

Nanoscale optoelectronics (Siller)

We are developing exciting new processes to form nano-diamonds. These have important applications as biological markers as a result of their unique optical properties.


Functionalised nanoparticles (Bull, Siller)

Nanoparticles are used in a wide range of products – all the way from cosmetics to water treatment in developing countries. We design nanoparticles with novel properties to improve, for example, sunblocks or lubricants.

WS2 fullerene-like nanoparticles for lubricants

WS2 fullerene-like nanoparticles for lubricants

 

Property modelling (Bull)

We take our understanding of behaviour at the atomic level and use it to create models which describe relationships between the structure of a material and its properties. This work has been used in the design of real products such as energy efficient solar-control coatings and self cleaning glazings.
Solar-control coating on architectural glass

Solar-control coating on architectural glass

 

Materials for energy systems (Bull, Charles)

We are developing new materials for use in renewable energy generation and are using our knowledge of material failure mechanisms to help improve the design of long life plant for tidal power generation and carbon capture and storage systems.


Carbon capture and utilisation via catalysis (Siller)

We are developing inorganic catalysts for carbon capture, utilisation and storage through ex-situ mineralisation. The purpose is to find permanent storage of CO2 with minimal energy input and accelerate the rates of the CO2 capture.

 


Recycling and waste management (Bull)

We are looking at methods to reuse/recycle difficult materials such as glass fibre-reinforced polyester composites and rare earth magnets and are developing novel methods to extract new and replacement raw materials using low energy processes.

Shredded and milled GRFP waste for incorporation into new composite products
Shredded and milled GFRP waste for incorporation into new composite products

Biomaterial engineering (Bull, Frankel, Novakovic)

Engineering of novel biomaterials has the potential to deliver exciting future technologies. We are currently working on materials for orthopaedics and biosensors.

 

Soft matter (Bull, Frankel, Novakovic)

Soft matter is a generic term for a range of materials with low compliance such as polymers, foams, emulsions and colloids and biological materials and is characterized by multi component mixtures, large ranges of length and time scales and many interacting degrees of freedom, leading to complex structures, phase behaviour and dynamics. We are working on dynamic functional polymer systems, organic electronics and novel foams based on polyHIPEs for impact resistance and tissue scaffolds.

SEM image of PolyHIPE showing hierarchical property

SEM image of PolyHIPE showing hierarchical porosity



Mechanics of biomolecules (Frankel)

Proteins, lipids and carbohydrates are key players in disease and infection. In our group we examine the mechanical properties of these molecules and relate them to disease pathology. We also study biomolecular self assembly with the aim of exploiting interactions to form artificial viruses.

Unfolding of a biomolecule using single molecule force spectroscopy

Unfolding of a biomolecule using single molecule force spectroscopy

 


Bio-hybrid robotics (Frankel)

New approaches to building robots, integrating biological tissue with electronics and machines are being developed. In particular bio-hybrid robots that can swim and feel are being built.
The swimming biohybrid robot Cyberplasm
The swimming biohybrid robot Cyberplasm

 

Key facilities

Nanoindentation facilities for high spatial resolution mechanical testing

Sensitive mechanical test frames for biomaterial assessment

Test frames for environmentally assisted cracking

Range of tribological testers (scratch, pin-on-disc, abrasion, galling, twin disc rolling-sliding and components scale tests)

Biological AFM

X-ray photoemission spectroscopy (XPS)