A researcher’s story

Matt Jennings was completing doctoral research at Carbon Nexus, part of IFM, when he was interviewed. Parts of his story can be found in the IFM researchers’ video – how he came to be a materials researcher, what his day is like and what it’s like to work as part of a research team, and what his project is about.

Matt’s research involved working out how carbon fibre sheets could be most efficiently and effectively glued to a material layer in order to produce a strong composite.

This involved experimenting with different temperatures and ‘curing’ (or setting) times for the adhesive, which leaks along the gap between the materials through a process of ‘capillary action’. The property of adhesives that determines how they flow, including between surfaces, is known as ‘viscosity’. Thus a fluid that flows slowly, like treacle, has a high viscosity compared to a fast flowing fluid like detergent, or water. When a liquid is heated, its viscosity decreases and it flows faster. Honey, for instance, is ‘runnier’ on hot days compared to cold days.

Thus, Matt’s project had to do with temperature effects on the viscosity, and curing time of the adhesive resin used in composite carbon fibre sheets. Matt’s research also involved the testing of carbon fibre sheets by putting pressure on them, and measuring the amount of bending under load, and the point at which they break.

Matt’s project was important to help work out how to produce composite carbon fibre sheets efficiently in a factory process, to reduce time and cost, so that carbon fibre can become more economic to replace older materials in a range of applications.

The investigations in this module relate to Matt’s research into carbon fibre composite materials. They include:

  • Composite materials – to investigate how composites gain rigidity and strength.
  • Plastics – to test the rigidity and strength of different plastics
  • Adhesives – to investigate how adhesives cause surfaces to stick together.
  • Honeycomb structures – these are a common structure used in composite materials
  • Viscosity – to investigate the viscosity of a range of materials.

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