Natural structural materials such as seashell nacre, human teeth and bones exhibit remarkable mechanical properties i.e. with combined high strength and toughness. They usually are composed of hard e.g. ceramic and soft e.g. polymer phases that are assembled in complex hierarchical structures with dimensions from nano to macroscales. Nevertheless, nature grows theses structural materials from a bottom-up approach using the biologically controlled self-assembly process from cells. A top-down approach from powder processing route is highly desirable for the fabrication of hierarchically structured ceramic composites to offer cost-effective engineering solutions for dentistry, orthopaedics and other structural applications.
The aim of this project is to create biomimetic ceramic composites with complex hierarchical structures. A freeze casting technique will be used from ceramic colloidal processing to produce ceramic scaffolds with controlled architecture being infiltrated with a second compliant phase to create biomimetic ceramic composites. Different combination of ceramic and compliant phases will be investigated. Mechanical properties including quasi-static and dynamic strengths and fracture toughness will be fully characterised. Fracture toughness and toughening mechanisms of the composites will be evaluated and elucidated using advanced imaging techniques such as FIB-SEM and microCT. Other materials properties e.g. wear, machinability, aesthetics will also be characterised depending on the intended applications. Correlation between materials, microstructure and properties will be established in order to provide rational design and fabrication of biomimetic materials for potential dental and orthopaedic applications.
Applicants, who have a first class or 2:1 or equivalent honours degree, or MSc or MPhil in materials and engineering subject, are encouraged to apply.