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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/G026203/1
Title: Nanostructured Polymeric Materials
Principal Investigator: Colquhoun, Professor HM
Other Investigators:
Hamley, Professor IW Hayes, Professor W Matsen, Professor MW
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Chemistry
Organisation: University of Reading
Scheme: Platform Grants
Starts: 01 January 2009 Ends: 31 December 2013 Value (£): 1,082,655
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Materials Characterisation Materials Processing
Materials Synthesis & Growth
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
30 Oct 2008 Platforms Panel October 2008 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Key scientific/technological challenges facing mankind at the opening of the 21st Century include the sustainable provision of both energy and water, a situation requiring a rapid shift away from technologies which consume resources without replenishment and which result in progressive degradation of the environment. The development of a sustainable approach to energy-generation, conversion and storage is recognised as one the highest priority areas in all of science. This is a field to which the Reading Polymer Group will make a substantial contribution through our work on low-cost polymer membranes for catalytic fuel cells, which generate electricity from hydrogen with very high efficiency and with only water as a by-product. Similarly, population growth and economic development across the planet is leading to rapidly increasing demands for clean drinking water, with even the prospect of water wars between nations which are constrained to share water resources. Here too, membrane science is key to meeting the challenge, with our own work focusing on the the development of membranes for the recycling of drinking water by low-pressure nanofiltration and ultrafiltration techniques. In this context we will also explore the potential of dispersed copolymer adsorbents as a novel approach to the removal of hazardous organic compounds from recycled water. A further global challenge results from the worldwide improvement in life expectancy, which is leading to increased incidence of age-related degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's disease and CJD. These result from the misfolding, aggregation and precipitation of proteins in the form of amyloid plaques and fibrils in the brain. Our work in this field will involve the design, synthesis and detailed structural characterisation of amyloid-forming protein fragments and derivatives of these in which the fragments are linked to synthetic polymers. These latter materials will be designed to inhibit protein aggregation and precipitation, so that the work will be crucial in determining how such degenerative diseases can be controlled at the molecular level. The performance characteristics of polymeric materials are often crucially dependent on their detailed structure at the nanoscale. A fundamental aim of our research is to achieve specified polymer nanostructures through the self-assembly of polymer chains, with the assembly process itself being governed by the chain-sequences of the polymers involved. Synthetic methods providing unprecedented control over monomer sequences will be developed in the new research made possible by the Platform grant. This design-approach, underpinned by insights resulting from high-level theoretical studies and state-of-the-art structural analyses, will be followed in nearly all our work - from the study of membrane ionomers and amyloid-forming copolymers to new, exploratory work on self-repairing polymers and on polymer brushes as potentially responsive and biocompatible surfaces.The Reading Polymer Group (H.M. Colquhoun, I.W. Hamley, W. Hayes and M.W. Matsen) is involved in numerous international collaborations, including current EPSRC-funded programmes with groups at Case Western Reserve, the University of Michigan, the California Institute of Technology, and Northwestern University, Illinois. The Group's areas of expertise, in polymer theory (Matsen), synthesis (Colquhoun, Hayes and Hamley), characterisation (Hamley) and technological application (Colquhoun and Hayes) are highly complementary. The Group is funded from a wide range of sources and currently holds grants and external studentship-funding to a total value of 3.36M, including active EPSRC grants of 2.64M. Platform funding will enable a number of outstandingly gifted research staff to be supported flexibly over the next five years, and will allow the Reading Polymer Group to move rapidly into new fields of developing science.
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Organisation Website: http://www.rdg.ac.uk