Undergraduate Research

by YPU Admin on February 21, 2014. Tags: material science and undergraduate research

Our ‘Undergraduate Research’ section will provide an insight into research conducted at an undergraduate level and feature case studies of undergraduate researchers at the University of Manchester.


Hi, my name is Rhys Archer and I graduated from the University of Manchester in 2013. I studied Materials Science and specialised in Textile Science and Technology, and had to undertake around 4 research projects a year based on lab work or industry examples. My 20,000 word final year project was in the form of an extended lab report and looked at the UV degradation of sail cloth material.

My research

I became interested in Textile Science and Technology (TST) as I have always had an interest in both Textile manufacture and Maths and Physics. I decided to study TST at university as I had worked at the government Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) in the materials engineering department as part of my work experience and had used laboratory methods to find faults in materials that had caused fatal accidents. These reports were then used in court as evidence for neglectful practice. I enjoyed the practical side to science, as well applying scientific knowledge to real world situations.

 Before my final year project, I undertook research in areas such as carbon fibre braiding, the use of Kevlar and other specialised materials in space material engineering, the structure and construction of body armour and the use of carbon fibre for the new Airbus design. I decided to concentrate on sail cloth material for my final project as I enjoy sailing, and have always been interested in the materials used for sails and sailing equipment and their resilience to natural factors such as wind abrasion or water damage.

The purpose of the project was to compare 3 different types of sail, subject them to different amounts of UV and then test their strength, tear and colour properties to see if there was any difference, and if so, if there was any trend in what type of material was the most susceptible.

In sailing, UV damage is the biggest commercial issue that affects everyday sailors as well as yacht racers, and so finding a UV resistant material would be ground breaking.

As I had decided to pursue my own research project, I found an industrial sponsor who supplied the material I tested and the specifications to test by. This was a great way to focus my research project, and meant that my research had commercial value. I used the equipment in the labs at The University of Manchester, including a light fastness machine, a tensile testing machine, a spectrophotometer and a scanning electron microscope.


Since completing my final year research project, my interest has been focussed more on the colour properties of materials and how these can be measured accurately. This field of study is referred to as Colour Physics or Colour Chemistry, and looks at what colour is, how it is measured, and the chemistry and math behind it. I enjoy it as there is a creative element with colour and textiles, which relates to design and photography, but with some complex math, chemistry and physics to understand.

Going further...

Find out more about studying Materials Science at The University of Manchester here.

Materials at Manchester – Graphene! Click here for more information.

Link to my final year project proposal presentation can be found here.

Click here for information on carbon fibre.

An interesting journal on textile composites used for space exploration can be found here.

A look at historic sailcloth can be found here.

For more information on modern sailcloth created by my sponsors, click here.

The Health and Safety Laboratory.

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