Natural polymers like cellulose, chitin, chitosan, alginate are one of the most abundant and renewable polymer with robust mechanical properties. However large scale utilization of cellulose/chitin/chitosan has not been possible because it leaves a large environmental footprint due to the hazardous solvents used during its extraction/processing. Also, cellulose/chitin/chitosan fibres have traditionally been used for mono-functional task such as a material for designing textiles.
The main focus of the proposed research project is to develop multifunctional (electrically conducting) and high performance biopolymer textiles. We have developed an environmentally benign method for manufacturing of cellulose fibres using ionic liquid as a “green” solvent [Rahatekar et al, Polymer, 2010; Zhu et al, ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering, 2016; Singh et al, Nanoscale, 2017]. Ionic liquids can act as solvent to dissolve conducting polymer such as polyaniline. As a part of this project, we aim to use ionic liquids as a common solvent for dissolving biopolymer (such as cellulose) and polyaniline to produce electrically conducting textile fibres using wet spinning and electrospinning process. Such a textile fibre can be used in a smart shirt which can measure the body temperature and heart rate of a patient  or as a soft biocompatible electrode for stimulation of neurons. We will also explore adding natural products such as curcumin (extract from turmeric), oregano oil which is shown to be effective in antimicrobial and anti-cancerous properties to develop bandage for anti-microbial and potentially help increase the immune response for fighting cancerous cells.
What will you learn during PhD (PhD Training)?
- Understanding the cellulose and natural polymers dissolution methods using environmentally friendly solvents.
-Environmentally friendly manufacturing process for fibres spinning, fibre coagulation and fibre stretching.
-Textiles structural studies using SEM, optical microscopy and tensile testing.
-Sustainable fibre dying process and develop use of the natural fibres for fashion/textiles use.
Application of sustainable textiles in engineering and biomedical sectors.
We have a strong industrial collaboration with UK based textiles and natural polymers manufacturing industries. These industrial collaborators will work closely with the PhD student to explore the potential use of the textiles for fashion, automotive and medical sector.
Future Job prospects:
The research training in environmentally friendly manufacturing process for textiles will be highly useful for job opportunities in textiles and fashion industry as well as in sustainable materials industry.