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Multiscale Materials Group

Dr Tara Schiller leads research into the synthesis and advanced characterisation of polymer composite systems. The group takes a bottom-up approach to making networks and nanocomposites that form materials that can be applied to many areas.

Dr Schiller's background in characterisation techniques such as spectroscopy, electron microscopy, thermal and mechanical analysis is also perfectly suited to investigate a broad spectrum of non-polymer materials and the group is currently undertaking projects in cardiac research (in collaboration with the Baker IDI) and working with ceramics. Dr Schiller also has also expertise in Synchrotron studies with a focus on real time studies on IR, SAXS/WAXS and EXAFS beamlines.

Current Projects
Network formation through photo-chemistry
This work focusses on designing simple synthetic pathways to make monomers and macromonomers via modular “click-type” techniques. We aim to improve the ability to 3D print novel materials rather than the tradition use of limited compounds. We have two outcomes – manufactured parts and biomaterials with control of morphology. We are investigating photo-acid, photo-base and radical photo-polymerisations to generate tailored materials.

Network formation

Figure 1. Scheme showing incorporation of synthesised macromonomer into a polymer network through photo thiol-ene click reaction to control the network structure.

Utilising photo-chemistry for novel nanocomposite materials

Our current focus is in the synthesis of functional microcapsules through aqueous photo cationic suspension polymerisation. These particles have been filled with Ag nanoparticles for antimicrobial activity.

Characterisation of human tissue degradation through Raman, SAXS and Fluorescence (with Prof Karlheinz Peter, Baker IDI)
We have applied materials characterisation to human tissue to produce additional and complimentary information to that provided by traditional biological techniques. We have seen that changes in haemoglobin can be seen on the micro scale; a direct correlation with degree of degradation.

Fluorescence heme

Figure 2. The change in intensity in the fluorescence directly correlates to the amount of haemoglobin degradation that has occurred.

Hot melt extrusion of drug/excipient combination (with Prof Tony McNally and Dr Sheng Qi UEA)
We have recently developed methodology that allows tuning of the melt temperature of a biomaterial excipient mix (starch and glycerol) impregnated with pharmaceuticals (ibuprofen or diclofenac) such that homogenous pelletized extrudate can be isolated without any degradation upon extruder processing. The aim is to further refine the extrusion process and produce a possible drug mix amenable for continuous processing and scale up. Once the material is able to be produced at scale up, dissolution testing for clinical viability will be undertaken at the University of East Anglia.

Lightweight memory nanomaterials for adaptive and self-healing automotive structures
This project is in collaboration with Jaguar Land Rover and will produce novel shape-memory polymers reinforced with nanoparticles to improve materials performance. The polymers will have the capacity to self-heal to reduce the replacement cost.

IINM labs

Key Contact
Dr Tara Schiller

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