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Fabrication of antibacterial nanopatterned coatings inspired by wings of insects

   Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences

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  Dr S Khodaparast, Dr Chris Hassall, Dr Anthony Buckley  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Bacterial fouling is a pervasive process responsible for catastrophic failure and fatal health issues in industrial and biomedical settings. To minimize the medical and environmental risks associated with biochemical treatments of bacterial fouling, this project investigates the potential of an alternative physical approach mimicking natural antibacterial materials. Seeking inspiration for antibacterial materials in natural species, insects stand out as impressive examples; supreme antifouling functionalities are often found in wings of flying species of insects. The surface of insect wings is decorated with biodegradable chemicals that manifest long lasting self-cleaning and antifouling effects. These desirable qualities are believed to arise from the intricate nanoscale self-assemblies of waxes on the epicuticular surface of the wings. Such materials can potentially resist deposition/adhesion of bacteria (antifouling) and/or cause death through mechanical interactions with the cells (bactericidal effect), however, the exact antibacterial mechanism of insect wings and its effectiveness under relevant dynamic conditions remain ambiguous. This multidisciplinary project aims to resolve the physico-chemical properties of naturally available functional nanomaterials to derive inspiration for the efficient design and scalable fabrication anti-biofouling coatings. In particular, morphological and chemical properties of different species dragonflies, damselflies and cicada will be examined. Additionally, their performance under the impact of isolated droplets and continuous flow of pure and contaminated fluids will be investigated experimentally. Following the characterisation of natural examples, the project will develop new fabrication methods to achieve engineered counterparts. To achieve a sustainable and scalable nanofabrication method, this project will use crystallisation as a tool to manufacture biomimetic nanopatterned surfaces using waxes that are directly extracted from natural antifouling materials. Findings of the project will not only enrich our limited understanding of such complex natural systems, but also advance the design and fabrication approaches for new generations of functional materials.

Funding Notes

A highly competitive EPSRC Bragg Centre Doctoral Training Partnership Studentship consisting of the award of fees with a maintenance grant (currently £17,668 in academic session 2022/23) for 3.5 years. This opportunity is open to all applicants. All candidates will be placed into the EPSRC Bragg Centre Doctoral Training Partnership Studentship Competition and selection is based on academic merit.

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