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New Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Polymers, Soft Matter and Colloids


Study for a distinctive PhD degree at The University of Sheffield that offers:


● A choice of CASE research projects with various industrial sponsors

● An intensive one-week training course in Polymer Science

● Monthly seminar programme led by industrial scientists

● Annual residential summer school in Years 1 and 2

● Business Enterprise module comprising 12 interactive workshops in Year 2

● Funds to visit an overseas academic institution of your choice to pursue a collaborative project

● Six-month secondment with your industrial sponsor in either Year 3 or Year 4

● A tax-free stipend of at least £16,300 per annum for four years


Applications are invited from UK students either holding, or expecting to receive, at least an upper second class honours degree in Chemistry, Physics, Materials Science or an Engineering discipline for enrolment in October 2014.


Please email your CV and a covering letter to for further consideration.




Polymer Science and Technology Training

Our next set of Polymer Science and Technology short courses will run from 4th – 15th November 2013.

Our courses range from our introductory modules:

Basic Polymer Technology – £370

Basic Polymer Science – £990

Through to our more advanced modules:

Polymer Dynamics and Macromolecular Rheology – £370

Polymer Chromatography – £370

Polymer Physics – £370

Polymer Synthesis – £370

Polymeric Biomaterials – £370

Polymer Electronics and Nanotechnology – £660

If you would like to attend the full set of courses, running over 2 weeks, a significant discount will be offered.

To register click here or for more information please contact us.


Polymer Centre Research Highlight-July 2013

University of Sheffield engineer, Prof Roger Lewis, has reported the results of a small-scale study to understand the issues surrounding accessing a rigid plastic container with a peelable lid.
The ease of access to plastic packaging is becoming a major concern for the packaging industry. Society is ageing, with the number of over 85’s is predicted to more than double between 2008 and 2033. With the associated decline in strength, dexterity and cognition, a larger proportion of society will, in future, potentially experience problems of accessibility to everyday items such as food or healthcare products.
Using yoghurt pots as a model, the researchers examined the required opening force, the technique used to open the lid and the force people can apply to pull off the lid, including finger friction measurements. The work demonstrated that dexterity is more important than strength and so improving accessibility of packaging of this type should concentrate on tab shape and design so that less dextrous fingers can locate and manipulate the tab. It also demonstrated that context of use was important since oil or moisture can strongly affect finger friction.
The researchers expect the techniques employed in this study to be applicable to many different types of flexible packaging products.
The work was carried out at the Leonardo Centre for Tribology and the Original Publication was: Investigating openability of rigid plastic containers with peelable lids: The link between human strength and grip and opening forces. Laura A Canty, Roger Lewis, Alaster Yoxall. Proceedings of The Institution of Mechanical Engineers Part C-Journal Of Mechanical Engineering Science, 2013, 227 (C5), pp 1056–1068.
For more information, please contact Dr Joe Gaunt at the Polymer Centre or Rachael Duthie at the Leonardo Centre for Tribology.


Polymer Science and Technology Course October 2012

Basic Polymer science course delegates 2012Our Polymer Science and Technology modular course ran from the 29th October to 9th November and was highly successful, with delegates coming from over 20 different organisations. Attendees commented that the course was “very well set up and organised, ran like clockwork” and the presenters delivered “excellent presentations, enthusiastic about subject”.

The Polymer Centre offers a range of professional development courses in polymer science and technology, ranging from our popular 3 day course in Basic Polymer Science, through to more advanced individual modules in Polymer Synthesis, Physics and Dynamics and Rheology. Our courses will start again in May 2013.

To see the full range of courses that we offer, please visit our training web pages .



Feeding the Schwanns: new technique could bring cell therapy for nerve damage a step closer

A new way to grow cells vital for nerve repair, developed by researchers from the University of Sheffield, could be a vital step for use in patients with severe nerve damage, including spinal injury.

Schwann cells are known to boost and amplify nerve growth in animal models, but their clinical use has been held back because they are difficult, time-consuming and costly to culture.

The Sheffield team, led by Professor John Haycock, has developed a new technique with adult rat tissue which overcomes all these problems, producing Schwann cells in less than half the time and at much lower cost.

“The ability of Schwann cells to boost nerve growth was proved many years ago in animals, but if you want to use this technique with patients, the problem is: where do you get enough cells from?” said Professor Haycock, from the University’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

“To reduce immune rejection, the cells have to be grown from the patient’s own tissue. Of course, you want to take the smallest amount of tissue necessary, so the technique must be efficient. It must also be fast, so treatment can begin as soon as possible after injury. For clinical use, it must also provide pure Schwann cells. And finally, to make it viable, it has to be at a reasonable cost.”

Existing methods for growing Schwann cells from adult tissue promote the growth of another type of cell, called fibroblasts, which swamp the Schwann cells, reducing the speed they grow and their numbers. This means that large amounts of tissue are needed at the outset, to grow sufficient cells for therapeutic use. It also requires extra purification stages added to the process, making it slow and costly – taking up to 3 months to complete.

Professor Haycock and his team have come up with a very simple solution: feed the Schwann cells but starve the fibroblasts. The research, published recently in Nature Protocols, uses an amino acid that only the Schwann cells can break down and feed off, and are able to produce a 97 per cent pure population of Schwann cells in a much shorter space of time – just 19 days – from a small sample of adult tissue.

Professor Haycock is confident the technique can be replicated in humans. His team are trialling the same method using human nerve tissue, with results expected within the next six months.


Polymer Centre says “goodbye” to Shelagh

At the end of September, the Polymer Centre said goodbye to Shelagh Evans (née Cowley), who has retired after 9 years of service to the University of Sheffield.

Shelagh was one of the original Polymer Centre team upon its foundation in 2003. She worked with Malcolm Butler to develop an operation which, today, represents 45 Sheffield research groups in polymer science and engineering by offering training and technology opportunities to industry.

She took responsibility for developing the Centre’s marketing and our training courses. We now engage with a network of over 1,500 contacts and hold Customer First accreditation; we provide training to more than 100 people per annum and are Google’s #1 for “polymer courses”.

She leaves quite a legacy. The former Polymer Centre Secretary, Rose Nightingale, won promotion to fill Shelagh’s training role as Training and Events Officer for Sheffield Science Gateway. Rose has already picked up the baton, completing the delivery of this autumn’s Modular Course and continuing to plan for next Spring’s.

We wish Shelagh and her husband, Paul, all the best for their retirement together.


Polymer Centre Research Highlight

Small molecule surfactants are known to self-assemble to produce anisotropic worm-like nano-structures under certain conditions. Aqueous solutions of these micelles exhibit interesting gel properties due to inter-worm entanglements including high viscosity, shear-thinning and stimulus response. This has led to a range of technological applications such as enhanced oil recovery, drag reduction agents and personal care thickeners.

Polymer Centre Director, Steve Armes, and co-workers have recently reported on less common themo-responsive polymer based worms. Diblock copolymers were prepared via aqueous dispersion polymerization. Careful control of the diblock composition enabled worms to be generated reproducibly. These worms form soft free-standing gels in aqueous solution.

Below a critical temperature, the material de-gels to form a free flowing liquid due to the worms reorganising to form spheres; the process is reversible and relatively insensitive to concentration. This critical gelation temperature can be tuned by altering the length of one of the copolymer components. It is anticipated that these materials will have biomedical applications.

For more information, please contact Joe Gaunt at the Polymer Centre. .

Original publication: Rheological studies of thermo-responsive diblock copolymer worm gels. Robert Verber, Adam Blanazs and Steven P. Armes. Soft Matter, 2012, 8, pp 9915-9922.



Polymer IRC Introduction to Polymer Engineering and Advanced Polymer Engineering: One day courses at the University of Bradford.

IRC logoWednesday 28th and Thursday 29th November 2012

Bradford University is running two, one day courses in polymer engineering. Day 1 introduces participants to the behaviour of polymer melts on their passage through primary polymer conversion processes, and demonstrates how polymer properties change when subjected to different modes of loading. The course is at introductory level and will cover both melt and solid state characteristics of polymers and how these influence the suitability of a given polymer for an application and choice of processing technologies used by industry.

Day 2 aims to broaden participants’ knowledge of engineering principles governing the polymer extrusion and injection moulding processes. The course will cover advanced processing of each of these technologies and introduce modelling and flow simulation. Participants will gain hands-on experience in simulating mould filling using Autodesk® Moldflow® software.

See this link for further details.

Booking enquiries:
Please contact Events Bradford

t: (01274) 233217

f: (01274) 233218


or Dr Mike Martyn



CPD Training

CPD Training in Polymer Science and Technology
We had an excellent few days with some very positive feedback from our new 3 day Basic Polymer Science course with took place on the 21st – 23rd May 2012.  We were delighted to receive Kris Hyde from ITM Power who gave an interesting presentation on the research activities of a local SME, a company who work closely with our academics in the Polymer Centre.
The full programme for the Autumn course which will run from 29th October – 5th November 2012 is now open for registration. Please go to our web site at for more information.  Regulars to our courses will see that we have introduced changes to the  format and new material, extending some of our existing modules into two day courses. Prices are available on the web site.
If you are interested in attending any of these modules or need further information please contact Rose Nightingale at


New method to model blast resistance of composites

Composites blast model

Engineers at the University of Sheffield have developed a robust and efficient computational model to calculate the behaviour of glass-fibre-reinforced laminate (GLARE) panels subjected to blast loadings. GLARE is commonly used in aerospace and automotive applications and the new model will inform the design of lightweight, blast-resistant structures.

Galal Mohamed and colleagues created a numerical model to study GLARE panels subjected to a blast-type pressure pulse and compared the results with experimental data on back-face deflection and post-damage observations. They found excellent agreement between the model and the test results.

The researchers undertook a further parametric study and identified GLARE as a potential blast attenuating structure, exhibiting superior blast potential to aluminium plates. They concluded that further work would study the influence of geometry in, for example, cylindrical structures, pre-pressurisation effects and boundary conditions.

The full article (G. F. A. Mohamed, C. Soutis, A. Hodzic, Appl. Compos. Mater., 2012, 19 (3-4), 619-636) is available via the link below (subscription required). Please contact Joe Gaunt at the Polymer Centre if you require any further information.

Journal article


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