A key strength of the Department of Materials’ research profile has always been the ability to conduct investigations across the entire breadth of polymer technologies, from chemical synthesis to mixing / dispersion of novel additives, upscaling to industry-scale processing and progressing to component testing and characterisation.
A key facilities enabler for these research programmes is the highly impressive and recently completely refurbished Polymer Processing Laboratory suite, which contains a broad range of state-of-art equipment for plastics & rubber compound preparation, injection moulding (plastics and ceramic powders), compression presses and several extrusion facilities, including single-screw units (sheet; blown film) and twin-screw machines for high-speed compounding and for rigid PVC processing. Much of our research is applications-oriented, including some longstanding collaborations with the packaging, building / construction, automotive, sport, defence and bio-medical sectors. A new polymer composites laboratory is also included, to support composites manufacturing research in materials engineering for the aerospace sector. These facilities are complemented by a range of rheometers (capillary, rotational and curemeters) for the assessment of flow properties, simulation software and test equipment / facilities in a temperature-controlled environment.
The scope of equipment and Staff resource available provides enormous opportunity for collaborative research programmes, for supporting student projects and also for short-term contract and consulting-type development activity with the Department of Materials. Whilst much of our research is sponsored by public-sector authorities (research councils, Innovate-UK etc.), we also collaborate in partnership with many companies along the component supply chain, including suppliers of polymers, additives and intermediates, component manufacturers and end-users.
Activities we address include but are not limited to:
- Processing of stimuli-responsive nano-scale fibres using electrospinning
- Manufacturing processes to produce additives with enhanced functional performance
- Orientation of disentangled ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE)
- Influence of processing on microstructure and mechanical performance of modified thermoplastics
- Characterisation of rheological behaviour of polymers for additive manufacturing
- Novel routes to manufacture polymer nanocomposites
- Elastomer mixing & processing: novel fillers and their effects on mechanical and ageing properties
- Melt-state blending of biodegradable plastics to enhance mechanical performance
- Polymer-clay nanocomposites: compounding and thin-wall injection moulding
- Novel materials and process technologies for specific industrial sectors
- Polymer rheology, process simulation and component optimisation