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Natural Polymers based Functional Textiles for Engineering & Biological Applications


Project Description

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 [3] 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)?

The student will learn the following techniques/skills
• Natural polymer Textiles manufacturing, fibre spinning and electrospinning process
• Textiles for antimicrobial, tissue engineering and other biomedical applications
• Electrical conductivity testing of the natural polymers and conducting polymer textiles.
• X-ray diffraction techniques for measuring the orientation of biopolymers molecules and crystal structure of cellulose.

Funding Notes

The student needs to support the PhD tuition fees (£9,000/year for UK or EU student, and £18,500/year for overseas students) and the living expenses (approximately £800-£1000 per month). The cost for running the biopolymer textiles manufacturing and testing experiments and facilities cost will be supported by the Enhanced Composite and Structures Centre at Cranfield.

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