The everyday world is full of mechanical shocks, impacts and vibrations that cause damage – we need new materials to protect against these.
Phone screens, cycling accidents, satellite launches and electric vehicle batteries – all examples where inadequate protection from mechanical forces can have healthcare, safety, product longevity and financial consequences. We need to develop new lightweight impact absorbing and vibration damping materials.
Conventional elastomeric materials (rubbers) have poor shock absorbing (dissipative) capabilities. However, one class of ordered elastomer, called a liquid crystal elastomer (LCE), show exceptional dissipative capabilities. The reasons for why LCEs have such excellent properties remains unclear. The chemical structures and molecular ordering present in these materials are evidently key factors, but precisely how these come together to give rise to highly dissipative materials is something we need to better understand from a polymer physics standpoint.
In this project you will create a range of ordered elastomeric materials and you will study their structure-property-processing relationships to understand the physics of their mechanical behaviours. You will start with LCEs, fabricating materials of various polymer chemistries, structures, and orders, and you will test their thermal and dynamic mechanical properties. From there you will explore different ordered polymeric materials such as block co-polymers and supramolecular proteins – all the time linking the physics of these different systems together.
This project is highly experimental in nature and will require you to work with chemicals to produce bespoke polymeric materials, to perform physical testing of these materials and to analyse data with a view to understanding the physics of the system. The project is therefore most suited to students from Physics, Chemistry, and Material Science backgrounds. Students from Engineering disciplines will be considered if they can demonstrate some relevant knowledge in areas such as polymers, soft matter, liquid crystals, mechanical testing and materials synthesis.
If you are interested in this project and would like to find out more about the research topic or the PhD program at the University of Leeds, then please contact the lead project supervisor, Dr Devesh Mistry at [Email Address Removed].