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Research Centre for Smart Materials

The UCLan Research Centre for Smart Materials is a network of researchers from across the University who focus on innovative and meaningful applications of smart materials – those that respond in a positive manner to their environment and changes to their environment.

These can be graphene, nanocomposites, films, fibres, biomaterials, alloys, and gels. We are engineers, designers, economists and material and social scientists. Our research address the major challenges for society in the areas of Energy, Environment, Healthcare, Mobility and Waste Management.

The network consists of engineers, designers and economists as well as material and social scientists assembled from academics in clinical and biomedical science, culture and creative industries, health, science and technology.

The application of our research and these materials will address the major challenges for society in key areas of:

Graphene composites, ionic liquids, nanomaterials, nuclear fuel and 3D printing.

MIP technology, sensors, magnetic nanoparticles, biomaterials and graphene composites.

Microbial biofilms, Antimicrobial resistance, functionalised antibiotics, drug delivery, overcoming biological barriers, nanomedicine, self assembly, lipid nanoparticles and 3D printing.

Degradable plastics, nuclear fuel, nanomaterials and 3D printing.

What we do

Our approach provides a vibrant and active research environment that attracts a variety of external organisations, industry and other academic institutions to collaborate and benefit from our research activities.

We have established sponsorships for our research, formed collaborations and have a portfolio of public research seminars - details of which will be added to this page.

There are around 50 academics and postgraduate research students involved in our Centre. The Management team are:

Latest research

Robotic craft

Robotic Craft research into scaling up processes of high value manufacturing has generated innovative new material outputs and processes of making in which the new materials take on qualities of the new digital tools.

Designed through extensive material investigations, combining craft techniques with an experimental sensibility to develop new architectural materials and finishes, we can harness the creative potential of frugal manufacturing and circular reuse techniques that introduce chance and randomness to the production line. This means that no two products are ever the same - yet the variance is part of a surface algorithm maintaining an endless material ‘carpet’ that is manipulated to fit and measure the context.

Latest ‘robotic craft’ prototypes include the V&A Tile that was printed with a robotic arm to ensure the pattern was continuous across more than one ceramic tile. This could then make eight distinctive ceramic carpets that were designed to rehabilitate the existing floor of the Grade 1 listed V&A Main Shop. These tiles are part of research in three-dimensional printed clay, the origin of which lies in medieval slipware, creating a ‘piped’ rather than layered appearance. This was recognised as the world’s first 3D printed piped tile and was exhibited at ‘FastCraft’ (8 May 2019 – 10 May 2019) in Camberwell College of Art; ’ Digital Manual’ at Arram Gallery (16 May 2019 – 22 June 2019) and ‘Hand Held to Super Scale : Building with ceramics’ (19 September 2019 – 31 January 2020) The Building Centre.

To find out more please contact Professor Adrian Friend.

Ceramic Tile by Professor Adrian Friend
Ceramic Tile by Professor Adrian Friend

Ionic liquids

Ionic liquids are salts, composed solely of ions and held together by their strong Coulomb potential. We are researching how the unique properties of ionic liquids could transform industrial processes such as gas capture and separation, catalysis, corrosion protection, lubrication, batteries and photovoltaics.

Ionic liquids are ideal candidates for CO2 capture and usually require lower temperatures to regenerate them compared to currently used amine scrubbers.

We carry out experiments at synchrotron radiation facilities to study the behaviour at the ionic liquid/gas interface. We use a new technique called near ambient pressure X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy to investigate the chemical or physical bonds formed at the interface and whether the gas capture process is reversible. We investigate competitive absorption to determine if the presence of other gasses reduces the ability of the ionic liquid to capture CO2. We carry out computer simulations to complement our experimental results.

Ionic liquids have also been used to improve electron transport in novel perovskite solar cells and this has led to significant improvements in cell efficiencies and in the stability of these devices.

We are using synchrotron techniques to investigate the surface physics between ionic liquid and perovskite materials. Using these methods we should be able to predict which ionic liquids are likely to enhance electron transport across the interface with the aim of improving the efficiency and stability of these devices. To find out more please contact Dr Karen Syres, Lecturer in Physics

Contact us

For further information contact Professor Harry Eccles and Professor Adrian Friend.