Blog

Only showing posts tagged with 'materials' Show all blog posts

Student View - Engineering is for Everyone

by YPU Admin on May 28, 2020, Comments. Tags: Engineering, materials, materials science, science, STEM, and student view

Introduction

My name is Gabriele and I was born and raised in the marvellous lands of Lithuania, but for the past 2 years I have been living in the UK. I am a second year Materials Science and Engineering student at The University of Manchester. Many people ask me what Materials Engineering is and why I choose this subject. Well, I have always enjoyed Physics, Chemistry and Maths and I was searching for a course combining all of them. Until, nanotechnologies and graphene popped into my radar and without a second thought, I applied to the university where graphene was found. As a teenager, I was always striving for challenges so studying a course with so many different fields (biomaterials, tissue engineering, polymers, alloys, ceramics) was exactly what I was looking for.

Why I Like Being an Engineer

Engineering is the most male-dominated field in STEM; therefore, whenever I tell people my degree, I receive stereotypical questions about being a female in engineering. Engineering captivates me as I am in lectures with world-class researchers and this inspires me to improve personally, contribute to society using tools of engineering and make a difference. Being so interested in the academic world, I asked my favourite lecturer if I could do a summer project in his team. After my first year at university, I got an internship at Manchester Institute of Biotechnology where I conducted research on self-healing polymers, made from oxidised lactose.

Imagine getting a one-page long description of an experiment, where no measurements, concentrations, catalysts are given and you have to make a final product, which in theory, when pressure is applied, should be able to recover the tears. I was working with extremely time-consuming and expensive products and every small mistake could cost a lot of money but because of my hard work, the results of this extremely challenging project surprised the PhD students and raised eyebrows of post-doctorates. No one expected the first-year university student to succeed and be able to contribute to the academic paper – but I did it!

Why I Joined a Society

Universities are famous for their range of different societies. As I was interested in Aeronautical Engineering, I joined Flight Simulation society where I soon became a part of the committee. During my time here I expanded my knowledge by designing my own aircraft with some help from Aerospace Engineering students and in my second year in the society, me and my teammate (we were the ‘strangest’ team, as I was the only female participating and he is a first-year student) designed a vertical take-off and landing aircraft and were chosen to represent the university at an aircraft designing and handling competition in the United States of America.

It is such an amazing feeling to be surrounded by like-minded people who are passionate about their field of studies and it has encouraged me to learn more and participate in discussions about new concepts. In the beginning, it was difficult to be a part of this society as I had no knowledge how an aircraft works, but slowly I became equal to all other members and involved in socials and events. This year, I taught first-year members how to use flight simulators, shared my experience about ‘living conditions’ in the simulator room and got to fly my aircraft in it with the full motion power – I felt like I was a real-life pilot!

What Lies Ahead?

During my second year at university I found out that Rolls Royce together with Target Jobs were conducting a competition for Female Undergraduate of the Year. Over 800 applications were sent and only 20 students were invited to attend an assessment centre in Rolls Royce. Proudly, I can say that I was one of those females. They were 2 amazing days, filled with networking, getting to know the company and finding out possibilities for after I graduate. One of Rolls Royce’s goals is to have more senior female engineers and attract them to the engineering world. This company conducts a wide range of projects where you can put yourself in a position of a real engineer and what it feels like working there and I really saw myself undertaking the challenges in a world-leading company and who knows – maybe in a couple of years I will go back there and lead a group of apprentices into the engineering world.

I cannot imagine studying another subject. Engineering intrigues me every day with new technologies, new materials being invented, and it gives me many different opportunities to improve.

Read more about engineering here:


 

Textile Technology - Can we really grow leather in a lab?

Introduction

My name is Dana and I am a 1st year EPSRC-funded PhD student at The University of Manchester. My project is interdisciplinary, spanning across the Textiles and Biomaterials research groups. I also need to draw on the Chemistry knowledge I learned at Undergraduate level. I work within the broader Department of Materials and spend most of my time on the Sackville Street Campus. My research aims to grow leather in a laboratory using tissue engineering techniques. It is hoped that this method could potentially be more environmentally, socially and ethically sustainable than current manufacturing practices.

In Depth…

At school, I enjoyed learning about a broad range of subjects. By A Level, I narrowed my favourite subjects down to Chemistry, Biology, Maths and Textiles. Teachers advised me to drop Textiles, so I could focus on more academic subjects. However, I persevered, since I enjoyed the subject so much. Textiles is, sadly, often undervalued as a subject in schools due to a lack of understanding. It offers many more career prospects than the stereotypical fashion designer. The scientific side of the subject, Textile Technology, is a fast-growing industry, with many exciting innovations already discovered. These textile products are designed to perform specific functions, as opposed to simply looking attractive. Examples of products already developed include smart, electronic textile garments to monitor patient health or army officer location. The technology spans a wide range of industries, also including agriculture, construction and sports. In fact, it would be difficult to find an aspect of modern life without Textile Technology in action!


My journey progressed through studying a Chemistry degree at The University of Durham. I appreciated the quaint city, having originally come from a rural area, and enjoyed participation in several extracurricular societies. During my degree, I gained a strong core knowledge and skillset that would be useful in any future career path, not just scientific. I confirmed my key interests were in the Biological and Materials fields. During my Master’s, I completed a year in industry with Solvay, specialising in composite materials for high performance automobiles. This gave me valuable, first hand work experience in Textile Technology. Following graduation in 2018, I took a year out to go travelling and learn more about the world. A fascinating exhibition on ‘Fashioned From Nature’ at the V&A Museum in London really captured my interest in sustainable fashion.

Meanwhile, society has become increasingly aware of the harmful impacts that materials can have on the environment. Plastics in particular have received a lot of negative media coverage. Animal welfare activism has reached broader audiences through social media. The proportion of people classifying themselves as vegetarian, or even vegan, is growing. Even those still consuming animal products are conscious about cutting down to lower negative health and environmental impacts. I myself converted to vegetarianism a couple of years ago. Leather is a luxurious fabric used in a variety of high-end fashion and furnishing products. It does however raise animal welfare concerns as it is made from animal skin, mostly wasted in the meat industry. As more people become vegetarian, we may need other sources of leather to meet demand. We should avoid equally harmful plastic alternatives though. Human skin is already grown in laboratories for medical skin grafts, so perhaps we could use similar techniques to grow animal skin? This is exactly what I shall work on over the next few years. This topic perfectly combines my academic and personal interests.

A typical working day could involve a mixture of: laboratory work; reading literature; analysing data; writing up; presenting research or teaching. I collaborate with staff members from many different departments. This variety of work during a PhD can make it more interesting than a typical day job. I am excited to see where my research goes! Maybe one day, lab-grown leather will make high street jackets… I am very lucky to be meeting my niche subject interests through this PhD. After completion, I hope to return to industry for a while. I may either continue down the sustainable fashion route or move into lab-grown meat research.

Going Further…

If you are interested in learning more about the potential of lab-grown leather, see this paper outlining research by another group:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2589234719300193

For The University of Manchester Department of Materials website, including many other interesting research projects:

https://www.materials.manchester.ac.uk/research/

To learn more about lab-grown meat technologies see this news article:

https://www.economist.com/international/2019/10/12/plant-based-meat-could-create-a-radically-different-food-chain

For the unique courses available at The University of Manchester specifically in Textile Technology:

https://www.manchester.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/2020/09900/meng-materials-science-and-engineering-with-textiles-technology/

https://www.manchester.ac.uk/study/masters/courses/list/08611/msc-textile-technology-technical-textiles/

Youtube videos introducing other textile technologies:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuXPCXEKvSo

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=smart+textiles

Career prospects:

https://nationalcareers.service.gov.uk/search-results?searchTerm=textile+technoloy


 

Recreating the conditions inside the sun

Introduction

Hello! My name is Asad and I’m a PhD student at the School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering at the University of Manchester. Within my PhD, I work in the relatively recent field of nuclear fusion. More specifically, I look at the effects of plasma damage and neutron irradiation (both known phenomenon that occur within nuclear fusion) on materials that could be used to build a potential fusion reactor.

A little bit about my background first. Before I embarked on my PhD, I completed a Master of Engineering (MEng) in Mechanical Engineering with a minor focus on Nuclear Engineering. I also did some part time study in mathematics and research projects within fluid mechanics. Of the latter, a noteworthy one is that I constructed a mathematical model of the acoustics of a banjo!


In Depth

Science has always intrigued mankind. Some of the foremost questions we have been obsessed with are the simple ones:

·  “Where did we come from?”

·  “Why are we here?”

·  “What do we do?”

No matter who you ask, you will realise that we still don’t really know the answers to these; whether we look for philosophical reasoning or scientific. We search high and low for answers. Our universe is at the centre of such research. And at the centre of our universe: the sun.

The sun can be considered a giant ball of energy. The manner in which this energy is generated is referred to as nuclear fusion. As the human species observed this, we felt the urge to exploit the process to aid our need for energy, in order to survive on a world where resources are rapidly depleting.

What exactly is nuclear fusion? The answer is a result of work done by pioneering scientists such as Ernest Rutherford, Pierre Curie and Marie Curie. We find that certain atoms of elements undergo interesting transitions. We have been able to exploit these, such as nuclear fission which is currently a dominant process to generate electricity. Within fission, we find that under the right conditions, some of the atoms will split and become smaller releasing energy in the process. Fusion is the opposite; some atoms combine and through the process release energy. It has been found that the energy released through fusion could potentially be more sustainable, cleaner, and less fraught with the risks associated with the energy generated through fission. 

Thus we are now engaged in a global technological race to be able to achieve the right conditions for fusion on earth. Thus far we have managed to recreate the conditions. However, we still haven’t managed to be able to maintain these for long enough, nor have we been able to extract power from it. We have some ideas on how to achieve both. One of the questions however is, do we have the materials to be able to do so?


This is where people like me come in. Thus far I have spoken about how this is a relatively new process mingled with a plethora of difficulties. Therefore, it will not be surprising when I say that we don’t exactly have the appropriate facilities to be able to entirely comprehend the extreme effects taking place. So how do we go about solving the problem? Some people try and use proxies, alternative approaches that in some way mimic certain effects we expect. Others try to use computational techniques and our understanding of physics to paint a picture. I’m involved in the latter. I use modelling and simulation to try and deduce what we expect. It isn’t as simple as pushing a button however. One needs to be aware of a lot of inter-related pieces of physics. Sometimes, we also find that we don’t have the computational power to actually be able to process all of these (surprising isn’t it given the progress in the field of IT).  Sometimes my job is therefore to see which processes are negligible. At other times, it is to check and draw conclusions from the results of my simulations. To name a few of the techniques I use; I use solvers for the neutron transport equation, binary collision approximation and molecular dynamics. The last considers how atoms are likely to behave. This generates some interesting perceptions of important chemical and atomic processes.

I’ll stop here. I’ll end on a note that the human race is currently engaged in very exciting things. But to see this realised; we need young, ambitious and creative minds that are keen to learn as well as try new things. 


Going Further

If you want any more information, please feel free to contact me at: asad.hussain@postgrad.manchester.ac.uk . 

To find out more about the chemical and atomic processes generated in molecular dynamics: http://lammps.sandia.gov/movies.html

A more comprehensive yet elementary guide on nuclear physics can be found at (http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/nuccon.html)

Here are also some web links pertinent to what I have written: 

Culham Center for Fusion Energy: http://www.ccfe.ac.uk/introduction.aspx

Nuclear Energy Agency: http://www.oecd-nea.org/workareas/

Fusion Center for Doctoral Training: http://www.york.ac.uk/fusion-cdt/