Bio-Inspired complex and adaptive materials and surfaces

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Materials


Nature produces hierarchical and complex nanostuctures and patterns through the self assembly of polymeric building blocks. Using such strategies, nature managed to showcase an array of truly magnificent iridescent structural colouration in beetles-Chrysina gloriosa, and butterflies-Morpho rhetenor and even some plants-Pollia Condensata and Margaritaria Nobilis. Furthermore, hierarchical natural composites demonstrate crucial examples of lightweight, strong, stiff, and tough materials, such as pine cones, wood and nacre to name a few examples of the diversity of the mechanical properties that can be achieved through self-assembly and mineralization.

Inspired by nature's smart strategies of fabrication of colour as well the dynamical changes, the aim of this PhD project is to develop soft composites of cellulose based liquid crystals that at equilibrium and present a colour response against the changes in its environment such as chemistry, temperature, mechanical strain etc. While natural materials themselves have impressive credentials, the atomic palette of nature is quite limited. For example, natural systems do not produce metallic surfaces, or produce electric and magnetic fields. Therefore, using biomimetic structured materials as scaffolds to combine the nano-structure of the biopolymers with the optical and electronic properties of the synthetic nanoparticles and soft matter systems will allow us to bring even more functionality to those systems. At the core of Tadeusz's PhD project he is targeting to develop critical understanding on the colloidal particle assembly dynamics; this is a complex topic and presents strong alignment with the EPSRC themes around Soft Matter Physics, functional ceramic, hybrid and inorganic materials.

This project is requires development of lab based skills initially therefore , Tadeusz will develop the cellulosic different building blocks that assemble into cholesteric form and blend in with responsive polymers and functional materials either using back filling method or reactive co-assembly methods to achieve the desired optical, chemical and mechanical sensitivities. In order to tune the colour response is a critical function of understanding of how supramolecular architectures of cellulose nanofibrils assemble into complex hierarchical materials in real-time. Therefore, Tadeusz will construct an optical microscopy set-up that has capability of direct observation of the self-assembly whilst taking spectral information from the microscopy image. Furthermore, Tadeusz's work will require developing processing techniques and instrumentation to fabricate, control and characterise the chemical, optical and mechanical behaviour of the new structures with switchable optical (dynamic colour changing systems) and mechanical (shape memory, shape adaptive and self-healing) properties. The methods that are used in this work will supply new approaches in EPSRC's development of novel characterization and simulation tools for the understanding of biological processes and Analytical sciences themes for Materials Engineering and Composites.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509565/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2021
2323525 Studentship EP/N509565/1 01/09/2019 01/07/2023 Tadeusz Balcerowski
EP/R513131/1 01/10/2018 30/09/2023
2323525 Studentship EP/R513131/1 01/09/2019 01/07/2023 Tadeusz Balcerowski