'Intelligent Adapters': A New Paradigm in Multifunctional Polymer NanoComposite Engineering

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Department of Chemical Engineering

Abstract

This proposal aims to create an adventurous research programme in the area of multifunctional nanomaterial-enhanced polymers building the technological foundation for a variety of engineering innovations. It draws upon and furthers the development of the following most recent key scientific advances:1. in quality improvement and modification of carbon nanotubes and their application in functional nanocomposites2. in the synthesis of porous media via emulsion templating 3. in nanoparticles as alternative surfactants including the synthesis of Janus, i.e. anisotropic two-faced, nanotubes and 4. in microbial synthesis of renewable (Janus) nanomaterials and their applications in green nanocomposites.The speculative nature of this research lies not only in the synthesis of bi-functional nanomaterials, but also in the use of guided self-assembly to create novel materials. The idea is to engineer innovative structural materials that can respond 'intelligently' to changes in their environment. The programme will explore the synthesis of anisotropic 'Janus'-particles, the development of scalable purification and modification processes for carbon nanotubes, and processes for manufacturing multifunctional materials. It will target applications in challenging environments, where extraordinary materials are in demand. The prime objectives of this proposal are to:1. foster a system of innovation connecting engineering research, basic science advances, and end-users in the design, synthesis, process and application of novel multifunctional structural materials;2. form an Exploration Group that brings together a network of distinguished scientists, academic experts, young academics and industrial users from around the world;3. engage with the public, media professionals and policy makers with a view to educate and inform the public and potential users and receiving feedback from these groups. The Exploration Group, as a network of excellence, will interact through a Roundtable of Ideas programme. It consists of planned and ad hoc activities such as colloquia, workshops and ideas factories to generate Blue Skies ideas and identify new research directions. The skills-set of the team will be enhanced through the exchange of research personnel. An interdisciplinary team of young researchers with a broad spectrum of skills in the area of multifunctional materials will be nurtured to take an internationally leading role in this field. This grant will provide the necessary space to think, be creative and flexible, to collaborate freely and to take risks for which there is little room in project-based funding.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Our research into very permeable yet mechanically robust macroporous polymers was inspired by the need of the oil industry to identify replacements for gravel packs usually employed as permeable filters down oil wells. The title of the Challenging Engineering call in 2006 was "Bringing Ideas to Life"; our idea was to utilise recently "rediscovered" particle stabilised emulsions as templates to produce macroporous polymers. To address the industry's challenge of compromised well integrity and reduced production efficiency posed by gravel packs, we proposed using emulsions, which can be pumped down the oil well and polymerised when placed, triggered by the temperature of the well, to yield a very porous and mechanically sound permeable filter. The polymerised, permeable porous material should have a minimum gas permeability of 1 D and compressive strength of 3.5 MPa. Prior to our work, research within the emulsion templating area heavily focused solely on high internal phase emulsions (HIPEs) stabilised by surfactants to synthesise polyHIPEs. "Standard" polyHIPEs are very porous, open-cell and interconnected but unfortunately have only low gas permeabilities of up to 0.46 D and very poor mechanical properties. We showed that particle stabilised HIPEs with internal phase volume fractions of up to 0.92 could be produced by using suitable nanoparticles and that the emulsions can be polymerised into novel poly-Pickering-M/HIPEs, which were however closed-cell and so impermeable. Here the nanoparticles act simultaneously as emulsifier for the M/HIPE template and as reinforcement in the final polymer foam. To create interconnects in this poly-Pickering-M/HIPEs, small amounts of a surfactant were added to pre-made Pickering-emulsions prior to polymerisation. The resulting modified poly-Pickering-M/HIPEs had much larger pores and interconnecting pore throats (compared to standard polyHIPEs) and had adequate mechanical strength and gas permeability. This was further explored by a KTS with the aim to explore the real world suitability of these materials for down well filters, which is currently being further explored by energy service companies. Also, we it was possible by tailoring the emulsification process to prepare HIPEs in which surfactant and particle stabilised droplets co-exist. When polymerised these templates yield macroporous polymers with a hierarchical pore structure in which large closed cell pores are embedded in many interconnected smaller pores. These polymer foams are permeable and have mechanical properties exceeding those of standard polyHIPEs but also poly-Pickering-HIPEs. Such materials might be of interest for controlled delivery applications.
First Year Of Impact 2008
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Energy
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description EPSRC/Functional and Green End-of-life Nanocomposites
Amount £444,869 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/F028946/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2008 
End 09/2011
 
Description EPSRC: Crashcomp
Amount £100,000 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/G005648/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2008 
End 11/2012
 
Description EU FP7
Amount € 850,000 (EUR)
Funding ID FP7 # 604093 
Organisation European Commission 
Department Seventh Framework Programme (FP7)
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 10/2013 
End 09/2016
 
Description EU FP7 GreenBat
Amount € 400,000 (EUR)
Funding ID 224582 
Organisation European Commission 
Department Seventh Framework Programme (FP7)
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 06/2008 
End 09/2011
 
Description EU FP7 NanoSelect
Amount € 700,000 (EUR)
Funding ID 280519 
Organisation European Commission 
Department Seventh Framework Programme (FP7)
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 02/2012 
End 01/2016
 
Description EU FP7 Storage
Amount € 3,400,000 (EUR)
Funding ID 234236 
Organisation European Commission 
Department Seventh Framework Programme (FP7)
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 01/2010 
End 06/2013
 
Description Imperial College London/CE contribution
Amount £500,000 (GBP)
Organisation Imperial College London 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2006 
End 10/2011
 
Description RTI International
Amount £15,000 (GBP)
Organisation RTI International 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United States
Start 01/2008 
End 06/2009
 
Description Shell-Imperial Grant Challenge
Amount £175,000 (GBP)
Organisation Shell Global Solutions International BV 
Sector Private
Country Netherlands
Start 01/2010 
End 12/2013
 
Description TSB
Amount £175,000 (GBP)
Organisation Innovate UK 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2009 
End 03/2011
 
Description 19th Annual Conference of the BioEnvironmental Polymer Society 2011 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact We (Prof Bismarck, Dr Jonny Blaker and Dr Koon Yang Lee) organised the BEPS 2011 conference. It was organised to boost the knowledge of state-of-the-art research in synthetic, renewable and natural degradable polymers and green (nano) composites of the conference participants. 218 participants from 28 countries, a mix of industry, academia and research institutes attended. A total of 113 oral and 42 poster presentations on fundamental and application driven research were presented. Interaction and knowledge exchange between the participants was encouraged through the Welcome Mixer, poster session with complementary food and drinks as well as conference dinner held in the Viennese microbrewery Salmbräu. BEPS 2011 allowed participants to catch up on the latest innovations and ideas.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description 30 min Austrian ORF Radio Show: Plastic Planet 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Prof Bismarck (Imperial) and Prof Andreas Kuenkel (BASF) were invited to be interviewed on Austrian National Radio ORF 1 during the BEPS conference and answered questions of Radio listeners on polymers in the environment and biobased polymers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011