Engineering and Physical Sciences - Graduate School
Polymers and New Materials
School of MACS, Heriot-Watt University
Chemistry is central to the production of materials with controlled properties. Material properties do not just depend on the atoms or molecules that are used, but also on their three dimensional order at length scales that can range from nanometres to millimetres. In this context, the Department performs internationally recognised research into polymers, liquid crystals, self-assembling systems, biomimetic structures, and other novel materials. This work crosses the traditional boundaries of organic, inorganic and physical chemistry. For example, new polymer blends and supramolecular structures are being prepared with finely tuned physical properties (e.g. plastics with 'memory', or tough hypoallergenic materials for medical implants), whilst liquid crystalline polymers are being used to generate materials with special optical properties. Some of the most remarkable polymers are found in nature, and are not yet produced commercially. Spider drag line silk is one example; it exhibits a combination of strength, stiffness and toughness that remains unrivalled by synthetic polymers.It is also an environmentally friendly polymer; it does not depend on oil as its raw material, it is biodegradable, and it is spun at room temperature from aqueous solution. We hope to develop new materials that mimic the chemistry, processability and properties of natural silks.