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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/N008065/1
Principal Investigator: Rodenburg, Dr C
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Dyesol UK Ltd Innovia films
Department: Materials Science and Engineering
Organisation: University of Sheffield
Scheme: EPSRC Fellowship
Starts: 01 February 2016 Ends: 31 July 2021 Value (£): 1,004,316
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Design & Testing Technology Materials Characterisation
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Electronics Energy
Manufacturing R&D
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
11 Sep 2015 Eng Fellowship Interviews Sept 2015 (B) Announced
05 Aug 2015 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 5 August 2015 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
My vision is to enable reliable large-scale manufacturing of novel advanced organic or hybrid organic/inorganic materials which have complex three-dimensional structure.

An advanced material is one with new properties that allows companies to develop novel high-value products to meet market needs, and in doing so generate growth and high-technology exports. Cutting-edge manufacturing is key to wealth creation in the UK. The UK cannot compete in the low technology (commodity) materials sector: these are now manufactured in countries with low cost labour markets.

To manufacture an advanced material, we have to understand its structure in detail. This means being able to observe and measure it over many length scales (nanometres to millimetres), and then use that information to understand its physical characteristics. Once we have understood how to create a material in the laboratory setting, the next challenge is to scale-up processing capability. Often the manufacturing process itself has a big impact on the microscopic structure of the material, and hence its physical properties. This leads to a development cycle. To maintain desirable properties, process variables are changed, informed by predictive modelling and re-examination of the microscopic structure. The aim is to identify process steps that critically impact on the product output capacity and reliability. This project will work directly with industrial partners to use novel ways of discern microscopic structure so as to inform the product development cycle.

The industrial partners are both large UK firms with interests in the energy sector: one working on developing polymer components for energy storage; the other working on up scaling process technologies for new types of low cost solar cells. For both materials systems, application performance success hinges on complex hierarchical structures. Scientists and engineers have realised that is often not only the material itself, but the way different structural arrangements, each at a different scale, interact with one another. As well as studying materials of immediate commercial application, this project also aims to harvest the information contained in very similar natural materials which also have complex hierarchical structures (spider silk in particular).

Prior development of this class of polymers has been hampered by the absence of measurement instruments and methods capable of accurately observing their composition and complex structure. I aim to refine a new type of electron microscopy that I have developed in order to measure, from the scale of nanometres to millimetres, soft-matter properties that define their electrical and structural performance. This will be tailored to the particular needs of my industrial collaborators, but the technique will also have much wider application. For example, I will also use my method to try to unlock the exact structural mechanisms that are found in the natural material silk - which has extraordinary properties as yet it is not understood how to retain these in the man-made equivalent. With the support of a visiting civil engineering expert who has developed scalable mechanical models for complex hierarchical structures, I aim to build a scalable model that will help to predict the link between process parameter variation and resulting materials properties. This will be informed using my new characterisation method.

Finally, in the light of the results from the research, I hope to pool the knowledge gained from both the industrial and academic partners to formulate a more general understanding of the development cycle for these technologically and economically important class of materials.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.shef.ac.uk