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Towards the predictive design of PAEK-based polymers - from fundamental polymer physics to advanced materials applications

PGR-P-776

Key facts

Type of research degree
4 year PhD
Application deadline
Ongoing deadline
Project start date
Tuesday 15 September 2020
Country eligibility
UK and EU
Funding
Funded
Source of funding
Research council
Supervisors
Dr Peter Hine and Dr Johan Mattsson
Additional supervisors
Prof. Peter Olmsted (Georgetown University)
Schools
School of Physics and Astronomy
Research groups/institutes
Soft Matter Physics
<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Summary</h2>

This project is focused on developing a predictive framework to control glass-formation and crystallization in polymers, with a particular focus on the efficient design of high performance polymers within the Poly Aryl Ether Ketone (PAEK) family. PAEK polymers are used in a broad range of applications including smart-phone speakers, electrical insulation, automotive gears, medical implants and aircraft components. This project is a collaboration with Victrex, a world leader in PAEK-based polymers that has its headquarters, its main R&amp;D facilities, and manufacturing in the UK. As two examples of Victrex PAEK-based applications, a medical implant made from Victrex&rsquo;s PEEK-OPTIMA polymer is implemented every 26 seconds (9 million people to date) including spinal, dental, arthroscopy and dental implants; Victrex polymers are also used to save weight, thus reducing CO2 emissions by millions of tonnes in over 20,000 commercial aircraft. The high temperature performance requirements of many PAEK polymer applications typically demand high glass transition temperatures (Tg), which in turn currently requires high melting points (Tm) and processing temperatures. However, we presently do not have sufficient fundamental understanding of glass-formation or crystallization in polymers to predict Tg or Tm from the structural molecular characteristics, as chosen during polymer synthesis. The goal in this project is thus to identify methods to control the balance of Tg and Tm. The physical properties including structure, dynamics and mechanics of PAEK polymers with systematically varied molecular building blocks will be investigated using a wide range of experimental techniques including calorimetry, dielectric relaxation spectroscopy, advanced rheology, scattering (light, x-rays, neutrons) and microscopy (light, electron). The results will be interpreted and analyzed in light of the current state-of-the-art knowledge of the glass transition and crystallization in polymers. The student will have access to the Victrex R&amp;D team and facilities, with support from Victrex expected to include the manufacture and testing of bespoke new polymer structures in order to validate the student&rsquo;s work. The successful student will become a member of the Centre for Doctoral Training in Soft Matter for Formulation and industrial innovation (SOFI2 CDT). The student will take part in the full 6-month training programme of SOFI2 CDT which is based at Durham University; after this initial training period the student will be allocated this particular PhD project and transfer to the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leeds.

<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Full description</h2>

<p>This project is focused on developing&nbsp;<strong>a predictive framework to control glass-formation and crystallization in polymers</strong>, with a particular focus on the efficient design of high performance polymers within the Poly Aryl Ether Ketone (PAEK) family. PAEK polymers are used in a broad range of applications including smart-phone speakers, electrical insulation, automotive gears, medical implants and aircraft components. This project is a collaboration with&nbsp;<a href="http://www.victrex.com/">Victrex</a>, a world leader in PAEK-based polymers that has its headquarters, its main R&amp;D facilities, and manufacturing in the UK. As two examples of Victrex PAEK-based applications, a medical implant made from Victrex&rsquo;s PEEK-OPTIMA<span class="superscript_text">TM&nbsp;</span>polymer is implemented every 26 seconds (9 million people to date) including spinal, dental, arthroscopy and dental implants; Victrex polymers are also used to save weight, thus reducing CO<span class="subscript_text">2</span>emissions by millions of tonnes in over 20,000 commercial aircraft.&nbsp;</p> <p>The high temperature performance requirements of many PAEK polymer applications typically demand high glass transition temperatures (<em>T</em><span class="subscript_text">g</span>), which in turn currently requires high melting points (<em>T</em><span class="subscript_text">m</span>) and processing temperatures. However, we presently do not have sufficient fundamental understanding of glass-formation or crystallization in polymers to predict&nbsp;<em>T</em><span class="subscript_text">g&nbsp;</span>or&nbsp;<em>T</em><span class="subscript_text">m</span>&nbsp;from the structural molecular characteristics, as chosen during polymer synthesis.&nbsp;The&nbsp;goal in this project is thus to identify methods to control the balance of&nbsp;<em>T</em><span class="subscript_text">g&nbsp;</span>and&nbsp;<em>T</em><span class="subscript_text">m</span>. The physical properties including structure, dynamics and mechanics of PAEK polymers with systematically varied molecular building blocks will be investigated using a wide range of experimental techniques including calorimetry, dielectric relaxation spectroscopy, advanced rheology, scattering (light, x-rays, neutrons) and microscopy (light, electron). The results will be interpreted and analyzed in light of the current state-of-the-art knowledge of the glass transition and crystallization in polymers.</p> <p>The project is supervised by soft matter experimentalists at the University of Leeds&nbsp;(Dr. Johan Mattsson and Dr. Peter Hine), and a soft matter theorist at Georgetown University in the US (Prof. Peter Olmsted).&nbsp;The student will have access to the Victrex R&amp;D team and facilities, with support from Victrex expected to include the manufacture and testing of bespoke new polymer structures in order to validate the student&rsquo;s work.</p> <p>The successful student will become a member of the Centre for Doctoral Training in Soft Matter for Formulation and industrial innovation (SOFI2 CDT), as outlined below. The student will take part in the full 6-month training programme of SOFI2 CDT which is based at Durham University; after this initial&nbsp;training period the student will be allocated this particular PhD project and transfer to the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leeds.&nbsp;Please see the information below for more details about SOFI2 CDT.&nbsp;</p> <p>-----------------------------</p> <p><strong>Centre for Doctoral Training in Soft Matter for Formulation and Industrial Innovation (SOFI<span class="superscript_text">2</span>&nbsp;CDT) (</strong><a href="https://www.findaphd.com/common/clickCount.aspx?theid=2307&amp;type=185&amp;url=https%3a%2f%2fwww.dur.ac.uk%2fsoft.matter%2fsoficdt%2fabout%2f" target="_blank">www.soficdt.ac.uk</a>)</p> <p><strong>Four-year PhD studentship available in the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Soft Matter for Formulation and Industrial Innovation (SOFI</strong><strong><span class="superscript_text">2</span></strong><strong>&nbsp;CDT) commencing in September 2020.</strong></p> <p>SOFI<span class="superscript_text">2</span>&nbsp;CDT is the successor to the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Soft Matter and Functional Interfaces (SOFI) which, since 2014 has provided industrially integrated, postgraduate training in research, enterprise and innovation for future leaders in the soft matter academic and industrial sectors. SOFI<span class="superscript_text">2</span>&nbsp;CDT combines expertise from Durham, Leeds and Edinburgh Universities, more than 25 industry partners and national facilities. It brings together more than 60 academics from Departments of Physics, Chemistry, Food Science, Biology, Engineering, Earth Sciences, Computing, (Applied) Mathematics and the Durham University Business School.</p> <p>SOFI<span class="superscript_text">2</span>&nbsp;students will undertake a common 6-month, industry-facing science training course.&nbsp;</p> <p>Key elements of SOFI CDT</p> <ul> <li>World-leading research in all aspects of soft matter science</li> <li>Integrated training in SOFI2 physics, chemistry, food science and engineering</li> <li>Learn within a multidisciplinary team of students with different core skills</li> <li>Innovation and Commercialisation training via the SOFI2 mini-MBA</li> <li>Opportunity to spend up to three months overseas on PhD project-related placement</li> <li>Gain exposure to industry and major facilities via secondments and industrial co-supervision.</li> </ul> <p>---------------------------------</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>

<h2 class="heading">How to apply</h2>

<p>Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.leeds.ac.uk/info/130206/applying/91/applying_for_research_degrees">University&#39;s website</a>. Please state clearly in the research information section&nbsp;that the research degree you wish to be considered for is &lsquo;Towards the predictive design of PAEK-based polymers - from fundamental polymer physics to advanced materials applications&rsquo; as well as&nbsp;<a href="https://eps.leeds.ac.uk/physics/staff/4117/dr-johan-mattsson">Dr Johan Mattson</a>&nbsp;as your proposed supervisor.</p> <p>If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University&#39;s minimum English language requirements (below).</p> <p><em>We welcome applications from all suitably-qualified candidates, but UK black and minority ethnic (BME) researchers are currently under-represented in our Postgraduate Research community, and we would therefore particularly encourage applications from UK BME candidates. All scholarships will be awarded on the basis of merit.</em></p>

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">Entry requirements</h2>

Applicants to research degree programmes should normally have at least a first class or an upper second class British Bachelors Honours degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate discipline. The criteria for entry for some research degrees may be higher, for example, several faculties, also require a Masters degree. Applicants are advised to check with the relevant School prior to making an application. Applicants who are uncertain about the requirements for a particular research degree are advised to contact the School or Graduate School prior to making an application.

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">English language requirements</h2>

The minimum English language entry requirement for research postgraduate research study is an IELTS of 6.0 overall with at least 5.5 in each component (reading, writing, listening and speaking) or equivalent. The test must be dated within two years of the start date of the course in order to be valid. Some schools and faculties have a higher requirement.

<h2 class="heading">Funding on offer</h2>

<p>EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training Studentship for 4&nbsp;years consisting of academic fees (&pound;4,600 for 2020/21), together with a maintenance grant (&pound;15,285 for 2020/21) paid at standard Research Council rates. UK applicants will be eligible for a full award paying tuition fees and maintenance.&nbsp; European Union applicants will be eligible for an award paying tuition fees only, except in exceptional circumstances, or where residency has been established for more than 3 years prior to the start of the course. Funding is awarded on a competitive basis.</p>

<h2 class="heading">Contact details</h2>

<p>For further information regarding your application, please contact Doctoral College Admissions:<br /> e:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:maps.pgr.admissions@leeds.ac.uk">maps.pgr.admissions@leeds.ac.uk</a>, t: +44 (0)113 343 5057.</p> <p>For further information regarding the project, please contact Dr Johan Mattson:&nbsp;&nbsp;<a href="mailto:K.J.L.Mattsson@leeds.ac.uk">K.J.L.Mattsson@leeds.ac.uk</a></p>


<h3 class="heading heading--sm">Linked research areas</h3>