Polymer composites are used in a wide variety of applications including electronic devices, aerospace and automotive components, wind turbines and plastic packaging. They are comprised of inorganic filler particles, such as carbon or glass fibres, embedded in a polymer matrix. Thermoset reinforced composites, such as epoxies, are used in wind turbines and aircraft bodies due to their lightweight and high strength, but are very difficult to recycle.
The project will first investigate the formation of the epoxy polymer network at the fibre surface. For example, disruption to the network could cause a lack of adhesion between the fibre and epoxy matrix, leading to a weakness in the composite. Understanding these effects will enable design of the fibre-epoxy interface to further strengthen the composite material.
The second stage of the project will investigate methods for chemical separation of the fibre from the polymer matrix, and facilitate better recycling of the fibres and epoxy.
The project will be based in the Department of Chemical and Process Engineering in the University of Strathclyde, under the supervision of Dr Karen Johnston and Dr Paul Mulheran. Applicants should expect to obtain at least an upper second-class degree in a relevant science or engineering subject. The project will involve computer simulations, which can provide molecular-level insight into the fibre-polymer interface at the nanometre scale that is not accessible to experiment. Knowledge of a Linux environment and molecular dynamics simulations is desirable but not essential as training will be provided.
In addition to undertaking cutting edge research, students are also registered for the Postgraduate Certificate in Researcher Development (PGCert), which is a supplementary qualification that develops a student’s skills, networks and career prospects.
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