In this project, novel polymeric nanocomposites with superior physical properties will be prepared using graphene. The addition of graphene as a component of polymer nanocomposites results in superior material properties - it is a way of combining 'the best of both worlds' (polymer and graphene). However, both pristine graphene and graphene oxide are incompatible with most hydrophobic polymers, and do not form homogeneous polymer composites. This project specifically addresses these issues by employing graphene oxide as surfactant for synthesis of polymeric nanoparticles in miniemulsion, i.e. various monomers will be polymerized in aqueous miniemulsions in this way, thus generating novel materials. The obtained aqueous emulsions of polymer/graphene oxide will then be cast as films - these films will subsequently be annealed (heat treatment) whereby graphene oxide is reduced, rendering the films electrically conductive. One of the current research challenges is to control the distribution of graphene throughout the material, and thereby control the electrical conductivity.
Polymers | Graphene | Materials science | Coatings
The student will work in the well-equipped Cluster for Macromolecular Design (CAMD) laboratory alongside a large number of postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers, the vast majority of whom are also involved in related research. This will be an ideal and stimulating environment to learn what research is all about.
The main novelty in the present project lies in the fact that new means of preparing attractive graphene/polymer nanocomposite materials and nano-objects will be developed, which is of importance for design of nano-engineered materials with a wide range of applications.
It is expected that the experimental work by the student will be included in an article for publication in a high impact international journal. Our research centre publishes a high number of papers per year, and small projects typically become part of larger research papers, thus contributing to the CV of the student (who would be a co- author).