All polymer composites is a growing area of research and development in which the Leeds Soft Matter Physics group has been one of the foremost pioneers. Research to date, on melt processable polymer systems, has led to a number of major patents and via a University spin-off company, to commercial applications. In the view of replacing synthetic polymers by renewable matter, all-cellulose based composites have great potential.
In this project we shall manufacture and study all-cellulose composites using “green” processing routes. Selective surface solvation of the cellulosic fibres via an ionic liquid will be used. Preliminary studies (using flax and hemp fibres) have shown that excellent bonding can be achieved, but composite morphology and mechanical properties are not yet understood. The composition of the cellulose solvent (type of ionic liquid and fraction of cosolvent), pre-activation of cellulose fibres (distilled water / caustic soda), the fibre type and hence properties (different cellulose sources), the fibre arrangement (unidirectional, woven, weave) and processing variables (solvation time and pressure) will be varied.
The mechanical properties (tensile, bending, impact) of the composites will be studied and correlated with their structures (WAXS, NMR, SEM).
We are consuming fossil fuels at an ever increasing rate with this finite resource expected to be effectively exhausted before the end of this century. Therefore we need to develop sustainable processing systems that can generate bio-based products with less environmental impact. Through doing this we strengthen and develop the UK bio-economy. Processing of cellulose with ionic liquids gives the possibility to tap into nature’s most abundant biopolymer unlocking its remarkable natural properties via “green” dissolution routes. All cellulose composites have the potential to have excellent material characteristics due to the improved binding between matrix and fibre. As these materials will be formed entirely from cellulose their recyclability is greatly simplified, with this being an important consideration for the product lifetime. Cellulose is easily functionalized and thus the properties of all-cellulose composites can be readily tuned (hydrophilic-hydrophobic).
Finally, a successful process could be applied to waste cloth (linen) which may come from textile recycling.
With today’s need for “greener” materials and more sustainable processing routes; new, innovative process strategies are urgently needed.
This project will involve the Centre for Materials Forming (CEMEF), France, a world-known, centre of excellence for cellulose studies as well as a European leader in the field of material processing.
This is an excellent opportunity for high impact, UK leading, research.
This project will capitalize on a SRIF funded NMR machine (with solid-state, imaging and rheology it is one of only a handful in the world with such features).
This PhD is an excellent opportunity to work in an international multi-disciplinary collaborative group applying physics, imaging and polymer science to an industrially relevant problem. The student will learn about Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), the underlying physics of MRI, biopolymer science and soft matter physics.
How good is research at University of Leeds in Physics?
FTE Category A staff submitted: 24.00
Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)
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