All cellulose and all keratin composites


Contact Dr Mike Ries to discuss this project further informally

Project description

Processing of cellulose with ionic liquids gives the possibility to tap into nature’s most abundant biopolymer unlocking its remarkable natural properties via “green” dissolution routes. All cellulose composites have the potential to have excellent material characteristics due to the improved binding between matrix and fibre. As these materials will be formed entirely from cellulose their recyclability is greatly simplified, with this being an important consideration for the product lifetime. Cellulose is easily functionalized and thus the properties of all-cellulose composites can be readily tuned (hydrophilic-hydrophobic). Finally, a successful process could be applied to waste cloth which may come from textile recycling.

In this project we shall manufacture and study all-cellulose composites using “green” processing routes. Selective surface solvation of the cellulosic fibres via an ionic liquid will be used. Preliminary studies (using flax and hemp fibres) have shown that excellent bonding can be achieved, but composite morphology and mechanical properties are not yet understood. The composition of the cellulose solvent (type of ionic liquid and fraction of cosolvent), pre-activation of cellulose fibres (distilled water / caustic soda), the fibre type and hence properties (different cellulose sources), the fibre arrangement (unidirectional, woven, weave) and processing variables (solvation time and pressure) will be varied. The mechanical properties (tensile, bending, impact) of the composites will be studied and correlated with their structures (WAXS, NMR, SEM).

In looking to maximize the impact of any recycling strategy for waste the project will also explore the potential for manufacturing all-keratin composites from poultry feather waste. In this country alone there is approximately 120,000 tons of waste feather produced annually and is either landfilled or hydrolyzed down to small proteins and used as animal feed. Through initial supercritical carbon dioxide extraction at 120°C the raw feathers can be cleaned and sterilized and hence provide a substantial cheap feedstock material for producing high value materials through ionic liquid green processing.

Entry requirements

Applications are invited from candidates with, or expecting, a minimum of a UK upper second class honours degree (2:1) in a relevant discipline, a Master's degree in a relevant discipline, or both.

Additional staff contact

PJ Hine (Physics), C Carr and M Rigout (School of Design)

How to apply

If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University’s minimum English Language requirements.

Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through the university's website. Please state clearly in the research information section that the PhD you wish to be considered for is 'All cellulose and all keratin Composites' as well as Dr Mike Ries as your proposed supervisor.

We welcome scholarship 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.

If you require any further information please contact the Graduate School Office