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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R003009/1
Title: Particle Technology Established Career Fellowship Proposal: Characterisation and Evaluation of New Block Copolymer Nanoparticles
Principal Investigator: Armes, Professor SP
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
GEO Speciality Chemicals UK Limited Syngenta
Department: Chemistry
Organisation: University of Sheffield
Scheme: EPSRC Fellowship
Starts: 01 July 2018 Ends: 31 December 2022 Value (£): 1,667,481
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Complex fluids & soft solids Materials Characterisation
Materials Synthesis & Growth Particle Technology
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Manufacturing Healthcare
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
30 Jan 2018 Eng Fellowship Interviews Jan 2018 Announced
02 Aug 2017 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 2 August 2017 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Particle Technology is an important discipline that underpins many industrial sectors, including biomedical applications, latex paints and coatings, engine oil additives, viscosity modifiers (thickeners) and emulsion stabilisation. The Principal Investigator, Prof. Steve Armes, is one of the UK's experts in particle science and technology, with more than thirty years of research experience in this field. In particular, he designs a wide range of microscopic polymer particles on the nano-scale (polymers are long-chain molecules that can be programmed to undergo in situ self-assembly during chain growth). He seeks a four-year EPSRC Particle Technology Established Career Fellowship to devote more time to such research activities, which will be conducted in close collaboration with four UK-based companies (GEO Specialty Chemicals, Scott Bader, Lubrizol & Syngenta), four UK academics and three overseas academics. This will enable him to integrate substantial academic and industrial expertise in order to tackle a range of important scientific problems that could not be addressed by a single researcher. Some of these problems are fundamental in nature, such as investigating the precise mechanism of particle formation during heterogeneous polymerisation or developing very fine particle-stabilised oil droplets that exhibit long-term stability towards droplet coalescence. Other aspects of the outlined research programme have obvious potential applications. These include: (i) the development of next-generation hydrogels for the long-term storage of human stem cells, which have the potential to transform regenerative medicine; (ii) the design of highly anisotropic worm-like particles to act as thickeners for a range of oils in cosmetics formulations; (iii) the elucidation of new high-temperature oil-thickening mechanisms for engine oils, which has the potential to improve fuel economy and hence improve air quality.

Prof. Armes is well-known for his synthetic expertise in particle design, but in the past five years he has gained substantial experience of particle characterisation studies. In particular, his research group now use a range of advanced instrumentation such as small-angle X-ray scattering for particle size analysis, assessing gel properties via oscillatory rheology and emulsion processing using a high-pressure microfluidiser. In this Fellowship, the focus will be on particle characterisation and evaluation, with underpinning particle syntheses being performed by the ten PhD students in the Armes group.

To oversee this ambitious research programme, Prof. Armes seeks 50% of his salary for four years. The four work packages will be undertaken by the four named highly-experienced post-doctoral scientists, who are all current members of the Armes group. A total of 13 post-doc (wo)man-years is requested, plus sufficient funds to access all the state-of-the-art equipment that will be required to rigorously characterise the size distributions and solution behaviour of these new polymer particles. In addition, funds are requested for travel, an outreach programme targeting local and regional primary schoolchildren, and to organise a two-day workshop.

Prof. Armes has worked closely with a wide range of companies and his research has already inspired the development of commercial products by BASF, Cabot and DSM. More recently, a UK SME (Diamond Dispersions) tripled its annual sales and doubled its workforce by implementing informal technical advice provided by Prof. Armes. In 2016 Lubrizol scaled-up his nanoparticle formulations from five grams to twenty kilos per batch and conducted an extensive in-house evaluation of their performance as additives for next-generation engine oils, with pilot plant trials now approved for 2017. Thus Prof. Armes has an excellent track record of commercially-relevant technical innovation that is of tangible value to UK plc. This augurs well for maximising the economic impact of this Fellowship.
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Organisation Website: http://www.shef.ac.uk