This project will develop a new approach to 3D printing of customised plastic devices, functionalising polymers in situ by radiation grafting. The demonstration of this new manufacturing paradigm will be achieved by producing a ‘showpiece’ – a plain 3D printed cup which then gains a design containing multicolour UoM and chemistry symbols when dipped in a specially prepared liquid containing dyes which key into specific functionalities. Our long-term vision is point-of-use recycling abundant (and currently problematic) plastic waste. Polyethylene (PE), or polyethylene terephthalate (PET) will be transformed into new filaments with bespoke functionalisation in the print-head of an extrusion 3D printer, with functionalisation being programmable applied throughout the print, giving specific functionalisation in different regions of the printed device. 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. Radiation-induced grafting, a well-established and versatile method of polymer functionalisation, relies on the formation of radical species affording the reaction between the base polymer and a virtually unlimited array of grafting agents. By adjusting the process parameters one can accurately tailor the composition of a composite by combining the desired properties of the polymer backbone and graft components. This grafting is simple and cheap and can be accomplished at room temperature to produce pure (catalyst-free) grafted copolymer. Furthermore, the gamma rays used will penetrate the entire polymer structure creating numerous uniformly distributed radical sites, thereby enhancing the grafting efficiency. The grafting reaction can be controlled by varying the dose, dose rate, choice of solvent and monomer concentration. Hence the rate of grafting, its efficiency and depth can be manipulated by optimising aforementioned process parameters.
Applicants are expected 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.