Sunday, 14 April 2013

Talk : Smart Materials (Part 2)

Nottingham Trent University recently hosted the Inaugural Lecture of Dr Philip Breedon, Reader in Smart Technologies, School of Architecture Design and the Built Environment.

Following on from Part 1, Part 2 look at some of the relevant active research projects that NTU is working on.

Additive Manufacturing
Of course, no university worth the name is now without some kind of additive manufacturing capability, and NTU is no exception in this regard.

Dr Breedon showed an example of an automotive suspension unit that had been built additively and explained that this was a key technology in the medical field as it allowed moulds and implants to be tailor made for individual patients direct from CAD data.

Additive Manufacturing at NTU

He pointed out that such bespoke applications were an important way of getting medical technology actually into hospitals as the regulations for tailor-made therapies were significantly less stringent than for one-size fits all approaches such as conventional drugs or surgeries.

Also, Dr Breedon emphasised that the step from proven lab technology to actual use in patients (and the acceptance this required from clinicians) was a major hurdle in getting new technologies adopted.

Dielectric Elastomers
These are materials which comprise an elastomeric layer coated with an electrode on the top and bottom surface. An applied voltage causes a compressive force which compresses the elastomer in the “Z” direction but causes it to expand in the”X” and “Y” directions. Such materials are under investigation for a number of applications, including as artificial muscles.

Auxetic Materials
“Auxetic” materials are those which, strangely, expand when stretched. NTU researchers are looking at the possibility of using Auxetic textiles these to form bandages that could release drugs when stretched (for example, if a wound swells due to inflammation). See also here.

Prosthetic eyes
Another area of research involves collaborating with Nottingham based artificial eye producer John Pacey Lowrie to use fabrics with auxetic characteristics to produce artificial irises that can dilate or contract in parallel with the “good” eye by reacting to the level of ambient light. Advances in the manufacture of the high voltage (but very low ampage) power supplies required for these (and many other medical applications) are making this technology more and more realistic.
Prosthetic Eyes, together with prototype artificial irises developed by NTU

Ionic Polymer Metal Composites (IMPCs) Ionic polymer-metal composites consist of a thin ionomeric membrane with metal electrodes plated on its surface. A small applied voltage causes a very high deformation and these structures, often using Nafion or Flemion as the polymer element, show great promise for applications such as artificial muscle fibres. The fact that these act with a low voltage is important as volatages above 1.23 V can cause electrolysis of water.

Schematic of how Electro Active Polymers

An NTU IPMC in one configuation electrical impulse changes its configuration !

The Newton Building
It is perhaps worth mentioning that the NTU Newton Building is a rather wonderful place, as you can see in the pics below
A little Whalebone-esque, don't you think?


All NSB's own except EAP

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