Biological systems and the materials they synthesise are of interest to materials scientists because they provide novel solutions to challenges involving synthetic materials. For example, toughness and strength are two material properties that are generally mutually exclusive to each other - improving the strength of a man-made material usually tends to decrease its toughness.
Having tensile strengths beyond that of any metal or high performance fibre, higher current carrying capacity than copper, and a thermal conductivity exceeding that of silver, we believe carbon nanotubes are the ultimate macromolecule. Our goal is to transport their amazing properties to the macroscale of useful materials.
Over the past decade MML has developed a unique process for synthesizing carbon nanotubes via the floating catalyst route, and at the same time winding the entangled aerogel into a fibre. The process will work with a variety of different carbon feedstocks and generates a fibre with axial properties in the Kevlar range, but great robustness in bending.
These materials are made up of at least two different phases (matrix and reinforcement) that interact synergistically to bring up new properties. Our aim is to produce composites of tailored properties and functionality: from nanotube loaded polymers for static dissipation to multifunctional composite fibres for smart textiles.
With modern computational techniques, it is now possible to predict the properties of novel materials from first principles using advanced simulation techniques. This has the advantages of being both quicker and cheaper than a trial-and-error experimentation process, and also yields detailed structural and dynamical information that can provide a stringent test of theoretical models.
Granular materials are able to flow similar to liquids, but are composed of solid particles. They are important to many industries including pharmaceuticals, construction and food. Processes dealing with granular materials often occur over varying timescales, from long storage or transportation times to powder compaction, which occurs in the blink of an eye. Issues including processing history and storage conditions have an effect on the properties of the particles leading to changes in how granular systems respond to external stimuli.
The Macromolecular Materials Laboratory either owns or has access to top-of-the-line equipment for characterising a wide range of physical (mechanical, thermal, electrical, structural) properties of nanomaterials.