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A New Paradigm in “On Demand” Manufacture: Radiation Chemical Functionalisation During 3D Printing


Project Description

The automation of modern economy has an immense impact on our everyday life; the development and implementation of machine learning and artificial intelligence will bring about further socio-economic changes of great significance and scale. In the field of chemistry, the automation of reactions has been a growing area of research in the past decade with examples available in flow chemistry, peptide and nucleic acid synthesis. There is no doubt that the adoption of automation approach holds a great potential to revolutionise the way we do our chemistry.
The proposed PhD project will develop a new platform for the additive manufacturing (3D printing) of the customised plastic devices and components from functionalised polymers, which will be synthesised in situ by radiation grafting technique. This approach is particularly appealing as it allows to recycle and transform abundant (and currently problematic) plastic waste in a form of polyethylene (PE), polyethylene terephthalate (PET) or polystyrene (PS) into new filaments with bespoke functionalisation for further printing of the customised devices with significant added value. The novelty and major scientific impact of the proposed research is in combination of 3D printing of thermoplastic polymers with the dynamic radiation grafting of these materials to afford their task-specific functionalisation; importantly, both processes can be automated and synchronised thus ensuring high manufacturing throughput and versatility.
In the context of this PhD, you will focus on the development of 3D printing protocols from the radiation-grafted copolymers using PE and PET as backbone polymers. Both PET and PE possess good mechanical properties, but their hydrophobic surfaces render them unsuitable for use in, for example, polymer electrolyte membranes (PEM) or in biomedical devices. This limitation can be easily overcome by radiation grafting of the hydrophilic entities, e.g. 2-hydroethyl methacrylate (HEMA), onto PE or PET. Obtained graft copolymers will retain advantageous mechanical properties of the backbone polymer, but will also acquire unique functionality due to the grafted groups; 3D printing process will then transfer this functionality into a product with “on demand” design and application. By using more than one monomer (in sequential manner) for the radiation grafting process, 3D printing will produce a device with layered multiple functionalities.

Offered position will be based at the Dalton Cumbrian Facility (DCF), located at the Westlakes Science Park in picturesque West Cumbria.

The key aims and objectives of this project are:
• To design and develop the experimental apparatus for radiation grafting of the monomer components onto a base polymer, e.g. PE and PET;
• To develop 3D printing protocols to produce radiation-grafted co-polymers;
• To manufacture functionalised coloured plastic showpieces demonstrating feasibility of this approach.

The essential attributes of the successful candidate are:
• Good engineering skills and strong interest in developing scientific equipment ;
• Experience in designing and producing 3D printed objects;
• Good knowledge of chemistry and an interest in polymers and radiation science;
• Accuracy and dedication;
• Good planning skills;
• Good verbal and writing skills.

Applications for this PhD position are invited from outstanding and ambitious candidates expecting to hold, or about to obtain, a minimum upper second class undergraduate degree (or equivalent) in Chemistry, Chemical Engineering or Physics. A Master’s degree in Chemistry, Chemical Engineering or Physics and/or experience in Polymer Science and 3D printing is desirable.

Contact for further Information:
Dr Aliaksandr Baidak,

Funding Notes

This is a 3.5 year EPSRC DTP funded studentship covering fees and stipend(£15,009 p.a. in 2019/20).

Open to UK nationals only, due to funding restrictions.

We expect the programme to start in January 2020.

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