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Investigating and Improving the Thermal Degradation Pathways of Polymer and Composites


Materials and Engineering Research Institute

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Dr F Clegg Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Research Area:

Throughout the world people are injured and killed in fires, and many suffer from the effects of inhaling toxic fumes and smoke. In England alone, the cost is estimated to be several billions pounds.

Polymers and polymer composites can be utilised in a wide range of applications, for example, from large structural components for buildings and transport to fabrics or coatings for specialised garments. Flame retardant additives are an essential component in the polymer matrix when protection from fire is critical for performance.

Understanding the thermal degradation pathways of the polymer matrix and how these are affected by flame retardants is critical for optimising existing and developing new formulations for maximum flame retardant effects (i.e. reducing the rate of flame spread and the escalation of fire). Other nano additives, such as nanoclays can work synergistically with flame retardants to further improve performance – the mixing and compatibility of these with polymers and flame retardants also need to be understood further if improvements are to be optimised.

Primarily, this project provides the opportunity to;
• develop a detailed understanding of the reaction and degradation pathways of polymers and flame retardants.
• utilise a suite of characterisation techniques to assess evolved gases (TG-FTIR-MS), degraded polymers and chars (FTIR, Raman, SEM-EDX, etc.).
• develop polymer/flame retardant/nanofiller formulations for enhanced performance.

Furthermore, there is the opportunity to interact with a wide range of research students in a multi-disciplinary environment. Training will be provided to support studies, engage in professional development and attend conferences to present research.


The Materials and Engineering Research Institute (MERI) is a dynamic interdisciplinary research institute dedicated to addressing industrial problems through the application of fundamental science and engineering. For information about MERI please visit https://www.shu.ac.uk/research/specialisms/materials-and-engineering-research-institute

Application deadline: applicants accepted all year round with enrolments during September, February (January on website) and May

Duration: 4 years full time, 7 years part time.

Funding Status: there is no funding attached to this project. The applicant will need to fund their own tuition fees, research costs and living expenses.

For information about how to apply, entry requirements, tuition fees and other costs please visit https://www.shu.ac.uk/research/degrees/apply

Funding Notes

Funding Status: there is no funding attached to this project. The applicant will need to fund their own tuition fees, research costs and living expenses.

For information about how to apply, entry requirements, tuition fees and other costs please visit https://www.shu.ac.uk/research/degrees/apply
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