Sustainable Coatings by Rational Design: Polymer Interfaces at High Resolution
Sustainable Coatings by Rational Design (SusCoRD) is a multi-disciplinary research programme that aims, for the first time, to connect a detailed scientific understanding of the mechanisms of protective coatings failure with state-of-the-art-machine learning to deliver a framework for the optimisation of corrosion protective organic coatings and related nanocomposite materials. The programme is a 5-year collaboration between the Universities of Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool and our industrial partner AzkoNobel involving around 20 individual projects over 4 work packages.
The PhD project is part of a team working on polymer interfaces at Manchester working closely with colleagues at Sheffield. The overall aim of the research is to develop a multiscale mechanistic understanding of water and ionic transport in heterogeneous polymers and at inorganic/ polymer interfaces. Corrosion protective organic coatings (paints) are essentially highly formulated nanocomposite materials comprising a polymer matrix with particulate inorganic fillers adherent to a metal substrate. In order to develop an ability to predict the long-term performance of these systems, it is necessary to have a fundamental, molecular level understanding of the way the chemical and physical properties of the polymeric matrix are different from bulk materials by virtue of their reduced dimensions and proximity to interfaces, both with the substrate material and with the surfaces of particles, fillers, pigments and functional additives. The total thickness of relevant coating films ranges from below 5µm, for unfilled packaging coatings to highly filled 500 µm thick multi-layer marine coatings. However, the importance of the interface with the substrate and the presence of substantial fraction of sub-micron and micron scale particles means that the proportion of the resin component that is likely to be influenced by finite size and interfacial interactions is high – meaning the properties of the interphase will be central.
At Manchester we will use state-of-the-art analytical and spectroscopic microscopy at nm resolution while our colleagues at Sheffield will use complementary X-ray and neutron scattering methods to probe polymer-inorganic interfaces. We will study local chemical and physical interactions and changes at interfaces, in particular, we will examine how the transport of water and ionic species influence these interfacial properties which is fundamental to the design of effective corrosion protective coatings.
Applicants should have or expect to achieve at least a 2.1 honours degree in Materials Science, Physics, Chemistry, Chemical Engineering or an aligned subject. An interest in polymer science would be an advantage.
The duration of this PhD project is 3.5 years, the proposed start date is September 2019.
The project forms part of the “Prosperity Partnership” collaborative research award between EPSRC, AkzoNobel and the Universities of Manchester, Sheffield and Liverpool. Home fees will be paid (in 2019/2020 this is £4,327). The project is open to none EU and EU students but only home fees will be paid. Students will receive a stipend of a minimum of £16,000 per year.