Oxford Engineers take part in Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition

Members of the Department of Engineering Science have been involved in this year’s Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition. Running this year from 30 June to 5 July, the Exhibition is an annual display of the most exciting science and technology in the UK.

Run in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Reading, the exhibit ‘Materials that repair themselves’ showcased research into self-healing polymers. Oxford’s research in this area focusses on the mechanical properties of the polymers, and is led by Professor Clive Siviour, whilst the development of the chemical structures which allow healing is performed at Reading by Professors Howard Colquhoun and Wayne Hayes. The two universities are currently working on a joint EPSRC funded project to understand better the relationship between molecular structure and the mechanical response.

Oxford Engineers take part in Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition

Biological materials, such as bone and skin, can regenerate after damage but until recently such self-repair was almost unknown in man-made materials. The display explained how polymers can be designed to contain complementary molecular surfaces that will reconnect to repair damage. Self-healing polymers could vastly improve the durability and safety of critical components in cars and aircraft.

Particular highlights of the exhibit were a demonstration of high speed imaging to capture material failure in a bursting balloon, and examples of the latest polymers which can self-heal in a few 10s of seconds at room temperature.

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