Loughborough University Featured PhD Programmes
Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University Featured PhD Programmes
Loughborough University Featured PhD Programmes

Programming anisotropy into responsive soft materials

Chemical Engineering

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Prof JR Stokes , Assoc Prof I Blakey No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This project seeks to develop new kinds of soft nanomaterials using our recent discovery of liquid crystal hydroglass phase in suspensions of nanocellulose colloidal rods.

Many natural materials exhibit extraordinary properties that are dictated by the spatial orientation of nanostructures over many length scales. Our recent discovery of a Liquid crystal hydroglass (LCH) provides an exciting avenue to control structural hierarchy and hence properties of soft materials to a similar extent to that found in nature. LCH is a biphasic soft material with flow programmable anisotropy that forms via phase separation in suspensions of charged colloidal rods upon increases in ionic strength.

This project aims to expand on the materials space for LCH materials in order to create viscoelastic materials with complex rheology as well as structural, mechanical and optical heterogeneity. The intended outcome is enabling the creation of anisotropic materials with shape-memory and shape-restoring features for the realization of artificial muscles, novel biomedical devices, soft robotics and morphing structures.

Only one studentship is available, but HDR student has a choice between two potential work streams:
Work stream 1 aims to develop thermo- and/or photo-responsive LCH materials by surface functionalising nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC) colloidal rods. The student will design and synthesise block copolymers that self-assemble to the surface of the nanocellulose and characterise their interfacial chemistry and phase behaviour.

Alternatively, Workstream 2 aims to explore and diversify the materials space for LCH materials and their rheological properties. This project will vary solution properties and matrix rheology/composition for NCC suspensions, as well as investigate the presence and properties of LCH phases in a diverse range of anisotropic charged colloids.

The project is part of an Australian Research Council Discovery Project involving collaboration between School of Chemical Engineering, Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, Centre for Advanced Imaging, Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis at the UQ, and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO).

Funding Notes

The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 1 (January), 2021. It is open to Domestic and international applicants, but due to current travel restrictions, it is currently preferable if applicants already reside in Australia.
Information on stipend can be found at the website link below.


Y Xu, A Atrens, JR Stokes "A review of nanocrystalline cellulose suspensions: Rheology, liquid crystal ordering and colloidal phase behaviour" Advances in colloid and interface science 275, 102076 (2020)
Y Xu, A Atrens, JR Stokes "Structure and rheology of liquid crystal hydroglass formed in aqueous nanocrystalline cellulose suspensions" Journal of colloid and interface science 555, 702-713 (2019)
Y Xu, AD Atrens, JR Stokes "Liquid crystal hydroglass formed via phase separation of nanocellulose colloidal rods" Soft matter 15 (8), 1716-1720 (2019)
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