Research projects

Soft matter is everywhere. Your body, and all living things, are made of soft matter. It has many commercial applications, from polymer solar panels to Post-It notes.

Our projects reflect this, and include both projects aimed at achieving a fundamental understanding, and industrially funded projects.

Our group is highly international, we have present and past PhD students and postdocs from Italy, Spain, Malaysia, India, Saudi Arabia, Greece, and Germany, as well as the UK.

Supervisor - Peter McDonald

Research Group - Soft Condensed Matter

Type - Experimental

Collaborations - Forest Research, Roslin

Student will require - A 1st class / upper second degree or MSc in the Physical Sciences and an aptitude for experimental work

Project Description

A series of two PhD (Cox, Jones) and one EngD (Adey-Johnson, current) have over the past nine years systematically designed, tested and commissioned a tree hugger MRI magnet resonance imaging of water distribution in living trees and drying timber. The magnet is now at Forest Research (Edinburgh). In addition Adey-Johnson has introduced multi-scale X-ray CT scanning to obtain multi-scale digital maps of wood micro and macro structure. By the end of the EngD (September 2017) Adey-Johnson is expected to have successfully linked the microstructure and water distribution using innovative partial bounce-back multiphase (gas-liquid) lattice Boltzmann modelling. The next logical stages that form the basis of the new project research plan are:

(i) to develop an understanding of macroscopic shrinkage, warping and cracking of wood that result from microstructural and molecular changes in wood upon drying and rewetting. These stress-induced changes are of critical importance to the forest products industries due to product loss. Our improving understanding of water in wood enables us to begin to quantify these problems. However this requires us to map microstructural changes during water movement and introduce dynamic cell walls into the lattice Boltzmann mapping.

(ii) to introduce pits into the analysis. Pits are pores in wood cell walls that open and close in response to a relative humidity gradient across the wall. Counter intuitively it is currently believed that these only open in the absence of a pressure gradient like an inverse airlock. The project will seek to use magnetic resonance, X-ray CT and potentially neutron scattering techniques to verify these beliefs and integrate them into the lattice Boltzmann model.

A new EngD project is envisaged with the primary objectives of taking forward these next steps. It is highly desirable that this project overlaps with Adey-Johnson for one year to avoid the loss of transferable know-how and skills that otherwise occurs between projects. We therefore look to start in October 2016.

EngDs are 4 year doctorates where the student spends a fraction of their time working with an industrial sponsor and the remainder at the University taking advanced courses and using University facilities. These EngDs are part of the EPSRC Engineering Doctorate Centre in Micro- and Nano Materials at the University of Surrey. The new EngD student will be based 50/50 between Forest Research, Edinburgh, and Surrey in order to use the high resolution Surrey MRI facilities in the first and second year when the training courses at Surrey are most intense before moving to Edinburgh in years three and four to transfer know-how to by then upgraded tree hugger magnet.

Supervisor Richard Sear

Research Group - Soft Condensed Matter

Type - Theoretical

Techniques used - It is a computer simulation project

Student will require - I or IIi in physics or a related discipline

Project description

Crystallisation starts with the formation of a microscopic nucleus of the crystal. Because it is microscopic it is straightforward to study it in computer simulation but typically it cannot be observed in experiment. Experiments (including work at Surrey) often find that there is no well-defined rate of crystallisation. This project will use computer simulations to understand why.

Physicists have studied crystallisation since the 19th century. However, we still have a relatively poor understanding of how it starts, which is via a process called nucleation. There are two reasons why nucleation is poorly understood: 1) the nucleus is both microscopic and is present for only a very short time (less than a nanosecond for water), and 2) the nucleus almost always forms in contact with a piece of dirt in the system.

The dirt can be anything that offers a surface at which the nucleation barrier is low. The microscopic nature of the nucleus is illustrated in the figure below which shows a crystal that has formed in a crack. It was obtained by my PhD student Amanda Page.

Image removed.

The PhD project would therefore involving studying nucleation on simple surfaces (= model of dirt) via computer simulations like those used to produce the snapshot above, with statistical models of dirt to understand the origin of the lack of well-defined nucleation rate. The details would up to the candidate and I to arrange, the above is just a guide.

For further details of my research see my homepage, or my 2014 review article on this subject.

Supervisor - Joseph Keddie

Research Group - Soft Condensed Matter

Type - Experimental

Collaborations - The project will be carried out in close collaboration with Syngenta (near Reading, UK), which is a world-leading company with businesses in field crops, vegetable and flower seeds, seed care products, and chemicals for crop protection.

Techniques used - Research will be conducted in the Soft Matter Group's modern laboratories that recently underwent an investment of ca. £2.5M. The six academic staff in the Soft Matter Group conduct research in a wide range of topics, spanning nanomaterials, graphene, polymers, colloids, liquids in confinement, and biological physics.

The research will use techniques available in the Soft Matter labs and across the University.  In particular, advanced techniques of atomic force microscopy, electron microscopy, dynamic mechanical analysis, and vapour sorption will be used. Physical models of the process will be employed, tested and further developed.

Student will require - The student should have or expect a first-class or upper second-class honours degree.  Suitable academic backgrounds include physics, materials science, physical chemistry, or chemical engineering.  An interest in the application of physical techniques is important. 

Objectives - The aim of the project is to contribute to the development of better performing seed coatings that will make a large impact on the world by increasing crop productions and having a positive effect on agriculture.

Funding source - Funding will be provided by Syngenta. All tuition fees and the living expenses for the student will be paid.  Only UK/EU citizens are eligible for funding. 

Funding amount - Stipend for living expenses: £14,000 per year

Project description

Functional coatings are applied to seeds to provide protection and to contain active ingredients that increase the crop yield. In one type of seed coating, the binder is made from polymer nanoparticles in water. This project will investigate some of the physical parameters that influence the properties of coatings with the aim of developing coatings that protect the seed but do not prevent the transport of moisture and nutrients and that release the active ingredient in the desired way. The structure and dynamics of the polymer phase is of particular relevance.

Supervisor - Joseph Keddie

Co-supervisor - Peter McDonald

Research Group - Soft Condensed Matter

Collaborations - The student will be based at International Paint in Felling, Gateshead, and will undertake a taught element at the University comprising approximately 25% of the overall programme, with the remaining time being spent on the research project.  The majority of the experimental work will take place internally at International Paint, where the student will prepare polymers and paint test materials and will apply light scattering techniques.  Some experiments will use the specialist gradient-field NMR facilities of the University’s Soft Matter Physics Group, which has developed expertise in the study of polymer colloids over the past 15 years. 

International Paint is the name of AkzoNobel’s Marine & Protective Coatings (M&PC) business unit, which encompasses operations in the marine, protective coatings and yacht paint markets.  International Paint has a proud history stretching back to 1881 and currently has operations in 54 countries worldwide and more than 5,500 employees.

International Paint is part of the AkzoNobel company.  With headquarters in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, AkzoNobel supplies a huge range of paints, coatings and specialty chemicals - pro forma 2009 revenue totalled €13.9 billion.  In fact, AkzoNobel is the largest global paints and coatings company and is a major producer of speciality chemicals supplying industries worldwide with quality ingredients for life’s essentials.

The company operates under an ethos of environmental and social responsibility and has been recognized as one of the industry leaders on the prestigious Dow Jones Sustainability World Indexes (DJSI), reflecting the company’s commitment to improving its sustainability performance.

The student will spend time working at the Technology Centre (TC M&PC) at International Paint’s main research and development site at Felling in Gateshead in the north east of England.  The Technology Centre undertakes longer term research projects on behalf of the company’s business units aimed at new product development and new technology evaluation and development.  The group is equipped with state-of-the-art coatings technology equipment and facilities and is located in a new, purpose-built facility on the Felling site.

Techniques used - One of the main experimental techniques will be magnetic resonance profiling, which is a non-invasive method of measuring the distribution of water in a coating.  The technique applies a magnetic field gradient across the coating, so that each position has a different magnetic resonance frequency, which encodes the position.  The strength of the signal is proportional to the local water concentration.  There is a permanent magnet with shaped pole pieces at the University of Surrey, called GARField, which has been particularly designed to study coatings.

The project will aim to correlate the final film properties with the physics of drying and film formation as described in recent models.  The relationship of these parameters to paint industry tests such as dry track and open time  as well as the final film quality, will provide valuable information.  Coatings testing using a recently acquired Horus film formation analyser will also be of interest.

Student will require - The ideal candidate will have a good undergraduate degree (first or upper-second class honours) or a Master’s degree in a subject with some physical sciences content (e.g. chemistry, physics, materials science, or nanotechnology). The candidate will need to demonstrate good practical and analytical skills.  Some knowledge of NMR would be advantageous, but training will be provided.  Good written and presentation skills are essential, as is the ability to work as a team member. 

Objectives - The coatings industry is under significant regulatory pressure to reduce the amount of solvent emitted to atmosphere as a result of the application and drying of its products.  One of the principal routes for reducing organic-solvent emission is through the use of waterborne coatings.  This type of coating, which is deposited from a colloidal dispersion of polymers in water (called a latex), now finds widespread use in many domestic and industrial applications.  A major factor limiting their use is drying under conditions of low temperature and/or high humidity (below 5 °C and above 80% RH).

What is the problem to be addressed?

  • Drying under cold and/or humid conditions leading to incomplete coalescence, poor film integrity, mechanical properties, water resistance, etc
  • Drying at high ambient temperatures leading to poor film appearance or cracking
  • The inability of waterborne coatings to disguise imperfections in the underlying substrate (compared with solvent-borne coatings and some waterborne coatings based, for example, on polyurethane dispersions).  Solving this problem may require some study of binder flow after drying

Funding source - Funding will be provided by Surrey's Industrial Doctorate Training Centre and by International Paint.

Funding amount - £19,500 p.a. salary

Project description

This Engineering Doctorate (EngD) project will study the drying of waterborne coatings using advanced techniques of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) profiling and imaging in parallel with novel methods of light scattering.

The project aims to understand the factors that affect the water loss and spatial distribution in films deposited from polymer colloids in water in the form of a latex dispersion. Results will be interpreted with the aid of recent models of the drying process. Materials will be provided by International Paint, which is a world leader in marine coatings.

Course fees will also be paid by the studentship. Significant funds are available for travel and conference attendance.

Supervisor - Richard Sear

Research Group - Soft Condensed Matter

Type - Theoretical

Techniques used - Computer simulation and/or simple analytical theory

Student will require - I or IIi in physics or a related discipline. An interest in working at the boundary between physics and biology

Project description

Living cells, like the ones that make up our bodies, are intricate machines that burn energy, process information and do many other things using thousands of different types of nanomachines (their protein, RNA and DNA molecules).

These nanomachines work in the complex fluid mixture inside our cells. Recent work has shown that this fluid is highly organised on lengthscales from tens of nanometres up to the size of cell, typically around tens of micrometres.

In particular, what look like liquid droplets form in the cell and function to sequester RNA molecules when the cell is stressed, bring together the protein molecules that control cell division, etc. Although these droplets look like liquid droplets, their formation relies on energy-consuming processes, which is fundamentally different from normal liquid, such as water and oils.

The project will involve using soft matter computational physics to model these liquid droplets inside cell. It will investigate questions such as what determines their size, how they help the cell to function, and what determines liquid-like properties of these droplets, such as turnover times, and surface tensions. This will be done via simulation of simple models of non-equilibrium liquids.

Further information

Details of my research, my research group, publications etc are all available from my homepage. See my biological physics research page for my current interests in this area.

Supervisor - Joseph Keddie

Research Group - Soft Condensed Matter

Type - Experimental

Techniques used - The research will be carried out in the recently-refurbished laboratories of the Surrey Materials Institute. There are excellent facilities for scanning probe microscopy, dynamical mechanical analysis, thermal analysis, electron microscopy, and surface analysis.

Nanocomposite PSA films will be prepared through the processing of polymer colloids. A standard poly(butyl acrylate) colloidal dispersion (i.e. latex) will be used to create the PSA matrix. Magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles will be blended with the poly(butyl acrylate) latex and then used to cast adhesive films.

The effect of magnetic fields - generated by permanent magnets - on the particle distribution and PSA adhesion will be investigated. A research speciality within the Surrey Physics Department is magnetic resonance profiling [ref. 4]. A permanent magnet with a strong magnetic field gradient (up to 14 T/m), called the GARField magnet, has been designed at Surrey for use in magnetic resonance profiling of soft matter. Hence, this magnet will provide a reliable and reproducible gradient for use in this project.

Student will require - The student should enjoy working with sophisticated scientific equipment and have an interest in soft matter. An academic background in the physical or chemical sciences would be helpful.

Objectives - To determine whether magnetic particles are transported to a colloidal film surface when it is dried in a magnetic field gradient.

  • To determine whether magnetic particles in a dry adhesive film can be transported under the action of a magnetic field gradient. If so, to obtain an estimate of the velocity of motion of the magnetic particles.
  • To correlate the exact location of the magnetic particles (at the surface or distributed in the film) and the resulting adhesion energy of the adhesive.
  • To explore the extent to which the magnetic particle motion, and adhesion, can be switched on and off. Is there reversibility of the process?

Project description

Pressure-sensitive adhesives (PSAs) adhere instantly and firmly to a variety of substrates upon the application of light pressure. A high adhesion energy in a polymer PSA requires the right balance of viscoelastic properties (ref. 1).

The polymer must not be too stiff so that it can wet the surface, and it should be highly dissipative of energy upon deformation. Recent work at Surrey (ref. 2,3) has shown that carbon nanotubes can significantly increase adhesion when blended with a standard PSA, as long as the interface between the particle and the polymer can transfer stress. For many applications, such as in recycling electronic components or in medical applications (sutures and bandages), there is a need for "switchability" of adhesion upon demand.

There are already some commercially-available adhesives in which adhesion can be turned "on" or "off" by variation of the temperature. However, in some instances, it is not practical to vary the temperature of the system, or temperature variations could be damaging. This project will explore the feasibility of moving magnetic nanoparticles in a PSA layer using an external magnetic field as a means to adjust the adhesion.

Introduction to Adhesives:
1. C. Creton, MRS Bulletin, 28 (2003) 434.
2. C. Gay and L. Leibler, Phys. Rev. Lett., 82 (1999) 936.

Nanocomposite Adhesives:
1. "Stickier with SWNTs", Science, 314 (2006) p. 1051.
2. T. Wang, et al., “A Molecular Mechanism for Toughening and Strengthening Waterborne Nanocomposites,” Advanced Materials, 20 (2008) 90.
3. T. Wang, et al., “Waterborne, Nanocomposite Pressure-Sensitive Adhesives with High Tack Energy, Optical Transparency and Electrical Conductivity,” Advanced Materials, 18 (2006) 2730-34.

Processing of Adhesives:
1. J. Mallégol et al., "Skin Development during the Film Formation of Waterborne Acrylic Pressure-Sensitive Adhesives containing Tackifying Resin," The Journal of Adhesion 82, (2006) 217-238.
2. J.-P. Gorce, P.J. McDonald and J.L. Keddie, "Vertical Water Distribution during the Drying of Polymer Films Formed from Emulsions", Eur Phys J. E., 8 (2002) 421-429.

Supervisor - James Adams

Research Group - Soft Condensed Matter

Type - Theoretical

Student will require - Applicants should have a minimum of an upper second class (2.1) degree with strong mathematics or theoretical physics content

Project description

Liquid crystalline rubbers have an unusual coupling between the macroscopic shape of the rubber and the microscopic liquid crystalline elements. As a result these materials have complex elastic behaviour including the formation of microstructure on deformation, and spontaneous length increase of hundreds of percent on cooling.

There are many phases of liquid crystals including the nematic phase, the smectic phase which has highly anisotropic elastic properties, and the cholesteric phase which has important optical properties.They may be useful in high tech applications such as actuators in microfluidic devices.

I'm interested in supervising PhD projects ranging from finite element modelling of smectic phases, to modelling new applications of LCEs such as switchable adhesives.

Supervisor - James Adams

Research Group - Soft Condensed Matter

Project description

Complex fluids such as colloids, polymer solutions and surfactant solutions, have additional internal structure in comparison to simple fluids. For example the orientation and degree of elongation of the polymer chains must be captured in a model of polymer solutions. For several of these fluids, their mechanical properties is governed by a reaction diffusion equation. These models are capable of describing the unusual flow behaviour of complex fluids such as shear banding -- where an inhomogeneous shear profile forms on subjecting the fluid to a simple shear.

I'm interested in supervising projects on complex fluids for example; modelling the effect of the boundary conditions on their flow behaviour.

Supervisor - David Faux

Research Group - Theory and Advanced Computation

Type - Experimental

Techniques used - The atomistic simulations will be performed using DLPOLY, a software package created at Daresbury Laboratory. We have about 15 years experience using DLPOLY. The code can be run on the local super-computer. Local expertise exists through a PDRA and PGR students.

Raman measurements will be performed using to local Raman facility housed in the Physics Department. Dr Alan Dalton is an expert in this area.

Student will require - This is a computational project with the opportunity for experimentation. The student should be keen to develop their computational and modelling skills and be prepared to develop their own code in FORTRAN or C++. The experimentation will be performed using Physics Department facilities.

Objectives

  1. To undertake equilibrium atomistic simulations of graphene sheets using molecular dynamics to develop an improved understanding of its properties
  2. To investigate the mechanical properties of graphene, particularly its Raman spectra (determined from its vibrational properties)
  3. To undertake some Raman spectroscopy experiments on graphene sheets
  4. Undertake simulations of graphene in different environments (stressed, aqueous)

Project description

Recently, there has been significant interest at the fundamental level in the behaviour of carbon nanoparticles (such as carbon nanotubes and graphene). Graphene (a single layer of graphite with a hexagonal sp2 hybridised structure)is the strongest material known to man (and currently the most expensive!). The mechanical properties of graphene is not well established and its Raman characteristics, for example, have only recently been established experimentally. This is therefore an opportunity to make an impact in a young field.

This project involves developing a fundamental understanding of the mechanical properties of graphene jointly with Dr Alan Dalton. The computational component involves molecular dynamics simulation using DLPOLY software on the local supercomputing cluster. The identification of appropriate interatomic potentials will be key. The interpretation of data and production of simulated Raman spectra has not been attempted before for graphene but the technique has been implemented successfully in other systems and, provisionally, for carbon nanotubes. The results will have implications for the interpretation of spectra from carbon nanotubes too.

Supervisor - Joseph Keddie

Research Group - Soft Condensed Matter

Type - Experimental

Collaborations - There are two project collaborators. One collaborator is a major international company called Cytec, which has interest in the development of new materials. A second collaborator is at the University of Sheffield. They will be making the novel polymers for the research.

Techniques used - The Soft Matter Group has excellent facilities, which have recently been renovated. Most of the experiments will concern mechanical properties. Stress-strain measurements of soft polymers in tension. Dynamic mechanical analysis will be used to determine the elastic moduli of the materials at various pH values. The structure of the soft polymers will be determined with specialists techniques of atomic force microscopy

Student will require - A student with a background in physics, physical chemistry or materials science would be ideal for this project. An interest in practical work and in working with industry is important

Project description

This project will bring together a group of scientists to make a new class of polymers that are responsive to pH change. The aim at Surrey will be to determine how the mechanical properties of polymers can be adjusted by pH. Information will be passed on to collaborators about ways to change the polymer structure to improve mechanical properties. The overall aim will be to create a polymer that can be used in an adhesive that can be switched "on" and "off" on demand.

For a good introduction to the properties of adhesives, see the review article by Prof. C. Creton in the MRS Bulletin, vol. 28 (2003) p. 434. For a recent example of pH effects on adhesion in an acrylic adhesive, see the paper by the Surrey Soft Matter Group: T. Wang et al., ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, vol. 1 (2009) pp. 631–639.

Or go to: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/am800179y

Supervisor - Joseph Keddie

Research Group - Soft Condensed Matter

Type - Experimental

Collaborations - This project will be carried out in collaboration with Dr. Antonios Kanaras in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Southampton.  The student will spend the first year in Southampton synthesizing inorganic nanoparticles.

Student will require - The student should have interests in nanoparticles and nanocomposites. Some background experience and knowledge of chemical synthesis would be helpful.  A first-class or upper-second-class honours degree (or its overseas equivalent) is required.  Funding can only be offer to UK or EU citizens. 

Objectives

(1)To synthesize inorganic nanoparticles (NPs) with a variety of shapes, sizes and aspect ratios.

(2) To create bespoke patterns of the NPs in a continuous polymer film through techniques of evaporative lithography.

(3) To determine the effects of particle characteristics and process conditions on the pattern formation.

(4) To develop applications of the structures in metamaterials and photonics in collaboration with the Advanced Technology Institute.

Funding source - Funding is provided by the South East Physics Network (SEPnet).

Funding amount - Standard EPSRC stipend (ca. £13,000 per year)

Project description

Recently a new method to create patterns from hard, colloidal particles in water, called evaporative lithography, was reported. This method uses a "holey" mask to modulate the water evaporation rate across the surface of a wet film. In regions where the evaporation rate is higher, the particle concentration becomes higher. Water then flows to these regions to replenish the water that has been lost. This lateral flow carries colloidal particles to the fast-evaporating regions.

In the original reports, evaporative lithography used mono-sized hard particles or blends of micrometer-size and nanometer-sized particles. (For details, see:  D.J. Harris, et al. (2007) Patterning colloidal films via evaporative lithography. Phys. Rev. Lett. 98, 148301.) Prof. Keddie has recently proposed a way to extend evaporative lithography to create polymer films with a bespoke topographical pattern. Moreover, the method can potentially be used to create patterns of nanoparticles arranged in a continuous polymer matrix, and this possibility will be developed via the proposed studentship.

The student will work in close collaboration with the Southampton group to synthesise inorganic nanoparticles with a variety of shapes and sizes. These nanoparticles will be blended with polymer colloid dispersions. Patterns of nanoparticles will be created via evaporative lithography at Surrey. The effects of particle size, shape and aspect ratio on the pattern development will be determined experimentally. Applications of the patterns in metamaterials will be explored. From this foundation, proposals will be made to industries and funding bodies. Optical and dielectric properties can be tuned by adjusting the periodic arrangement of the phases in two and three dimensions.

Supervisor - Joseph Keddie

Research Group - Soft Condensed Matter

Type - Experimental

Collaborations - The research group is part of a large European project on nanomaterials. There are several large companies in this collaboration. The group has strong ties with Surface Specialties, which is a polymer manufacturer.

Additional support - The group has several years of experience in the study of polymer colloids, nanomaterials and thin films.

Techniques used

  • The group has a state-of-the-art scanning near-field optical microscope and an atomic force microscope
  • Thermal analysis, including differential scanning calorimetry, will provide complementary information

Student will require - You should have an interest in optical characterisation and applications of lasers. Suitable first degrees include physics, materials, chemistry or chemical engineering.

Objectives

  • To develop the technique of scanning near-field optical microscopy (SNOM)for the study of structure and diffusion in polymer nanomaterials
  • To determine how polymer diffusion in nanomaterials is affected by inorganic nanoparticles, such as silica
  • To determine how additives to colloidal dispersions, such as surfactants, affect the diffusion process

Project description

Scanning near-field optical microscopy (SNOM) uses transmitted or reflected light to provide high-resolution images of a material. The light passes through an optical fibre and into a sharp tip that passes across the sample surface. Because the light source is so close to the surface, i.e. in the near field, this type of optical microscopy is not subject to the diffraction limit on the resolution. Laser light can be used to excite fluorescent molecules in a material.

If these molecules are found only in certain regions, then they provide a means to determine the internal structure. In this project, polymers will be labelled with fluorescent tags. SNOM will be used to visualise how far the molecules diffuse over time. The polymers will be blended with organic nanoparticles, such as silica nanospheres or layered silicates, and the effects on the polymer diffusion will be determined.

Further information

Polymer colloids and film formation:

J.L. Keddie, "Film Formation of Latex," Materials Science and Engineering R: Reports, R21, (1997) pp. 101-170.

Dates

Start date: 1 October 2010
End date: 30 September 2013

Summary

Postgraduate (PhD) students are required for projects that seek to combine Molecular-Dynamics and Lattice-Boltzmann modelling with the results of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance experiments of water dynamics in cement-based materials for a new understanding of water transport critical to the design of new improved and environmentally-friendly cement materials. This project focuses on modelling work: another projects focus on experimentation.

Objectives

  • To develop a nano-scale Molecular Dynamics understanding of water dynamics in cement
  • To develop a meso scale Lattice Boltzmann model of water dynamics in cement
  • The relate the dynamical output of these models to the results of nuclear magnetic resonance experiments

Funding

EPSRC Research grant

Details

Cement is the primary binding phase of concrete. It is millennia old and ubiquitous worldwide. As a building material, it is unrivalled in terms of tonnage used, price per tonne, and CO2 production per tonne. Yet its very success means that it is at the heart of the global warming storm. Cement production accounts for about 5% of global man-made CO2 emissions.

The cement industry urgently requires more sustainable cement based products that include greater fractions of supplementary cementitious materials and they require these with equal or better “performance” to current materials over the life time of buildings and infra-structure (~100 years). The difficulty is that, in spite of past research, we still do not have a fully validated understanding of the detailed nano and micro-structure of cement; no solid understanding of pore-water interactions within cement paste; and consequently no ability to reliably model the macro-water dynamics at the heart of concrete degradation. Without understanding today’s materials, how can we design, model and predict those of tomorrow?

The Nanocem Consortium is the leading pan-European research consortium of 27 academic and industrial groups including Surrey working in the field of fundamental, pre-competitive, cement science (see www.nanocem.org). Members of the Nanocem consortium have recently been awarded a significant number of collaborative research grants to improve our understanding of, and develop new, cement based materials. It is to enable these research programmes that we seek to recruit new research students.

Students joining the Nanocem consortium will benefit from:

  • Research training in a major multi-disciplinary, multi-national consortium;
  • Access to state-of-the-art equipment for pioneering research;
  • Joining an established consortium of circa 20 Nanocem funded post graduate and doctoral researchers, as well as their many peers separately funded;
  • Opportunities for regular international travel with options to work in other European countries;
  • Regular interactions with major industrial employers of doctoral graduates;
  • Learning technical and generic-life skills applicable to a wide range of industries beyond construction, including oil and gas, chemicals, personal; products; and pharmaceuticals and food;
  • Generous support packages while studying.

Sources of expertise

Modeling: Dr Faux and Drs Routh and Johns, Cambridge University

MRI/NMR: Professor Peter McDonald

Cement Science: Nanocem consortium

Dates

Start date: 1 October 2010
End date: 30 September 2013

Summary

Postgraduate (PhD) students are required for projects that seek to combine Molecular-Dynamics and Lattice-Boltzmann modelling with the results of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance experiments of water dynamics in cement-based materials for a new understanding of water transport critical to the design of new improved and environmentally-friendly cement materials. This project focuses on modelling work: another projects focus on experimentation.

Objectives

  • To develop an NMR/MRI Experimental understanding of water dynamics in cement
  • To relate the NMR/MRI Experimental data to the results of computer models

Funding

EPSRC Research grant

Details

Cement is the primary binding phase of concrete. It is millennia old and ubiquitous worldwide. As a building material, it is unrivalled in terms of tonnage used, price per tonne, and CO2 production per tonne. Yet its very success means that it is at the heart of the global warming storm. Cement production accounts for about 5% of global man-made CO2 emissions.

The cement industry urgently requires more sustainable cement based products that include greater fractions of supplementary cementitious materials and they require these with equal or better “performance” to current materials over the life time of buildings and infra-structure (~100 years). The difficulty is that, in spite of past research, we still do not have a fully validated understanding of the detailed nano and micro-structure of cement; no solid understanding of pore-water interactions within cement paste; and consequently no ability to reliably model the macro-water dynamics at the heart of concrete degradation. Without understanding today’s materials, how can we design, model and predict those of tomorrow?

The Nanocem Consortium is the leading pan-European research consortium of 27 academic and industrial groups including Surrey working in the field of fundamental, pre-competitive, cement science (see www.nanocem.org). Members of the Nanocem consortium have recently been awarded a significant number of collaborative research grants to improve our understanding of, and develop new, cement based materials. It is to enable these research programmes that we seek to recruit new research students.

Students joining the Nanocem consortium will benefit from:

  • Research training in a major multi-disciplinary, multi-national consortium;
  • Access to state-of-the-art equipment for pioneering research;
  • Joining an established consortium of circa 20 Nanocem funded post graduate and doctoral researchers, as well as their many peers separately funded;
  • Opportunities for regular international travel with options to work in other European countries;
  • Regular interactions with major industrial employers of doctoral graduates;
  • Learning technical and generic-life skills applicable to a wide range of industries beyond construction, including oil and gas, chemicals, personal; products; and pharmaceuticals and food;
  • Generous support packages while studying.

Sources of expertise

MRI/NMR: Professor Peter McDonald

Cement Science: Nanocem consortium

Supervisor - Peter McDonald

Research Group - Soft Condensed Matter

Type - Experimental

Student will require - A good first / upper second degree in the physical sciences and an aptitude for experimental and applied physics

Project description

DSTL is collaborating with the Department of Physics and the Institute for Communication Systems at the University of Surrey on a UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Council funded research programme investigating novel ways to improve the sensitivity of magnetic resonance applied in-situ, that is outside the laboratory, for applications ranging from construction engineering, forestry and, in the case of DSTL, the detection of contraband materials.

This EngD project is to implement the new methodologies developed at the University on NMR instrumentation at DSTL with a view to exploring the sensitivity enhancements and materials limitations that can be achieved in security-related applications and in non-destructive testing more generally. There are broadly two ways to improve the sensitivity of NMR: increase the signal or decrease the noise.

Much effort has been expended on the former, but, for in-situ applications almost none on the latter. The parent EPSRC project between Physics and ICS is to develop a new concept of “Active radio frequency interference suppression”. The Dstl funded student will look specifically at the improvements this brings in contraband detection. Here the challenge is to achieve materials specificity and low rates of false-positive detections and high through-puts for low amounts of chemically specific material in large, complex samples and noisy RF environments.

EngDs are 4 year doctorates where the student spends a fraction of their time working with an industrial sponsor and the remainder at the University taking advanced courses and using University facilities. These EngDs are part of the EPSRC Engineering Doctorate Centre in Micro- and Nano Materials at the University of Surrey.

Find us

Address
Dr Richard Sear
Soft Matter Group Leader, Department of Physics
University of Surrey
Guildford
Surrey
GU2 7XH