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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/J001902/1
Title: Field-induced assembly in magnetic systems - towards tunable magnetic devices
Principal Investigator: Dullens, Professor R
Other Investigators:
Wilson, Professor M Aarts, Professor DGA
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Oxford Chemistry
Organisation: University of Oxford
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 October 2012 Ends: 30 December 2016 Value (£): 730,139
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Complex fluids & soft solids Materials Characterisation
Materials Synthesis & Growth
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
EP/J00331X/1
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
09 Sep 2011 EPSRC Physical Sciences Materials - September Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Self-assembly is an umbrella term for a fascinating range of processes by which initial components build into a complex structure via a chemical or physical change. From complex inorganic macromolecules to the tertiary structure of polypeptides, self-assembled systems represent an extremely wide variety of systems. However, controlling self-assembly remains a formidable challenge, not least because there are usually many components present which lead to a range of different interactions and competing driving forces. To exploit self-assembled structures for the development of useful materials and tunable devices, it is a prerequisite to have deep understanding of the fundamental structural and dynamical processes underlying the self-assembly.

One particular class of material that displays a rich variety of self-assembled patterns is termed magneto-rheological (MR) fluids. MR fluids are formed by magnetic colloidal nanoparticles dispersed in a non-magnetic solvent (or non-magnetic colloidal nanoparticles in a magnetic fluid). Upon the application of an external magnetic field typically chain-like and fibrous structures appear, which sensitively affect the viscosity of the system. This effect is exploited in a wide range of applications ranging from MR seismic shock dampers to innovative prosthetic limbs. Furthermore, with their tunability of interaction, MR fluids are excellent model systems for fundamental network forming systems.

Here, we propose to investigate the field-induced assembly of fibrous network materials in MR fluids using experiments, computer simulations and stochastic fibrous network theory. Because the typical colloidal length and time scales are of the order of micrometers and seconds respectively, the structure and dynamics can be analysed at the particle level using optical microscopy, which allows for detailed comparisons between experiments, simulations and theory. Furthermore, we aim to exploit the effect of the addition of impurities, confinement and flow to control the network formation, which will allow us to explore the development of tunable magnetic devices.

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