Advanced Natural Fibre and Polymer Hybrid Materials (Johnston, MacKenzie)

The work will involve the incorporation and binding of metal nanoparticles, notably Au, Ag, Pd and related compounds onto and into natural fibres to provide nano-functionalisation and to fabricate nano-structured surfaces. Achieving control of the particle size and shape, self assembly and the chemical bonding of the respective nanomaterials to the fibre substrate will be of particular importance to achieve the desired optical, anti-microbial and catalytic properties. Also, particular interest will be taken in mimicking nano-structured surfaces found in nature to impart the optical interference colours and hydrophobic properties. The use of surface plasmon resonance effects will provide stable colours and interesting optical effects. In a similar manner new nanohybrid aluminosilicate inorganic polymers will be developed through the incorporation of particular elements or nano-entities into the aluminosilicate host to provide specific functionalities. Possibilities for this include the incorporation of calcium and phosphorus into potassium aluminosilicate inorganic polymers to produce biocompatible materials for bone reconstruction, and the incorporation of natural and ceramic fibres and carbon nanotubes into geopolymers to increase their strength and electrical conductance for structural and electronics applications respectively. The development of photochemical and anti-microbial ceramics and natural fibres will facilitate the removal of harmful organic species from wastewaters. Ceramic materials containing aligned nanopores have the potential for environmental remediation of heat island effects in large cities by acting as evaporative cooling elements. The outcome will be the development of new high value functional textiles and ceramics for advanced industry and consumer applications. The characterisation of the catalytic properties will form part of the research carried out in Objective 3.