Materials research project awarded major European grant
The FLIPT (Flow Induced Phase Transitions) research project, led by Dr Chris Holland, has been awarded €4 million of EU funding.
Awarded through the Horizon2020 Open-FET grant, the FLIPT project was one of 13 successful proposals out of 822 submissions to be awarded the funding based on its ‘novel ideas for radically new technologies’; taking inspiration from nature to set a new low energy paradigm for the productions of plastics.
Silk fibres are well-known for their exceptional mechanical properties, which are achieved thanks to a unique processing pathway that has evolved several times independently; a good sign of its efficiency. Silk is at least 1000 times more efficient at processing than a standard polymer by solidifying through dehydration as a result of flow. Much like an individual polymer chain in a melt, it is believed that a native protein and its closely bound water molecules may be considered not as a solution but as a single processable entity, a nanocomposite termed an "aquamelt" which is split upon exceeding an energetic processing threshold, which is extremely low.
The targeted scientific breakthrough of the FLIPT project is to fundamentally understand and then reverse engineer naturally occurring "aquamelts" in order to develop design rules for a new paradigm in polymer processing.
Dr Holland and his team will lead a consortia of seven partners from across five countries in research which takes inspiration from silkworms to create a new low-energy method for the production of plastics.