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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/D004926/1
Title: Nano-imaging and mechanical testing of soft materials / Basic Technology Proof of Concept
Principal Investigator: Fradkin, Professor L
Other Investigators:
Alford, Professor N
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Dr PK Petrov Dr D Zakharov
Project Partners:
Cavendish Laboratory
Department: Electrical Computer and Comm Engineering
Organisation: London South Bank University
Scheme: Standard Research (Pre-FEC)
Starts: 01 October 2005 Ends: 30 September 2006 Value (£): 103,532
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Complex fluids & soft solids Materials Characterisation
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
Adding carbon nanotubes --tiny tubes of carbon about 1,000 times thinner than a human hair- to plastics and other polymers offers many new possibilities: to make lighter automobiles with improved safety, composite armour for aircraft, ships and tanks, improve process economics for coatings, paints and dies, waste heat management or heat piping, help to create more tear-resistant textiles and sensors small enough to be embedded in clothing. One of the challenges facing the technology is the fact that in some applications the nanotubes tend to clump together while they must be aligned parallel to one another and be thoroughly blended, without forming aggregates, to perform their best. It follows that one needs to image the nanotubes embedded in the bulk of the matrix (thick and often carbon-based) and it turns out that neithet optical microscopy nor the electron microscopy with TEM (transmission electron microscope) or SEM (scanning electron microscope) are of much help . For this reason, the nanotube polymer mixtures present a perfect model media for developing the new high-resolution acoustic imaging technology. The most advanced GHz ultrasonic transducers to-date deliver the resolution of about 30 nm while the diameter of a single-walled nanotube is about 0.1-10 nm. We wish to investigate a possibility of building our own GHz transducer arrays arranged to create a time-reversing mirror to improve the resolution further by about a factor of 10.Time-reversal is the hottest current acoustic technique that achieves super-resolution by employing multi-pathing. Ultrasound reaches the ultrasonic probes via many different paths if many reflections take place - either because the medium is full of inhomogeneities or it possesses highly reflecting boundaries or both. The well mixed nanotubes are just such inhomogeneities and if the mixing process was imperfect, they might help us to visualise the remaining nanotube aggregates. The time-reversal mirrors have been demonstrated to work in the ocean acoustics and are getting a wider and wider application in the field of material characterisation and biomediacl research. However, as far as we know, to date, nobody has developed a time-reversal probe acting on the nano-scale.By the same token we wish to investigate feasibility of developing new technology for investigating mechanical properties of nanocomposites at the other end of the frequency spectrum - extremely low frequencies down to 1Hz. This topic is of great interest because many such materials have internal time-scales of about one second and therefore, exhibit their intrinsic properties only at these frequencies. If successful we will have techniques for investigating not only extremely exciting and new materials such as nanotube polymer composites but also living tissues, since the latter possess similar amazing properties. Indeed, the polymer composites are often designed to mimick nature. The ability to image different layers of living tissues at super-high frequencies could lead to new discoveries in life science as well as superior medical diagnostics, incision-free surgical techniques, and even the potential for a method of recharging the batteries of implanted devices like pacemakers without performing surgery. The ability to measure their mechanical properties can lead to new medical diagnostics.
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Organisation Website: http://www.lsbu.ac.uk