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Materials: Chemistry to Application

Reporting on the Knowledge Centre Materials Chemistry Annual Showcase

licensed to bondIt was time to get technical and so, swapping the dinner jacket for a lab coat, I headed off to get the inside information on the latest materials research and cutting-edge thinking.

The hot topic of the modelling of composites was addressed by the Hartree Centre in association with Victrex: How do you predict the properties of polymers/composites? If this were possible using molecular modelling, then design and manufacture using new materials would be massively accelerated and eventually it might be possible to achieve end user validation of materials on the basis of something on a screen. It would save Q some time when producing his little gadgets!

advanced materials, composites, chemistryAlison Starr of the National Composites Centre considered the UK composites supply chain, which was agreed to be in a better place than ten years ago.  Interestingly, she thought that the fine of €95 per car/per gram over the CO2 limit means that the automotive industry really needs to embrace composites and if it does so, then the market opportunity will be much bigger than for aerospace.  Alison identified bonding as an issue that is inhibiting this takeup but our agent was able to reassure attendees that OAS has a number of weapons in its ONTO™ armoury to deal with this.  Indeed, some OAS data on surface energy was shared by Victrex when discussing the strategy of choosing markets based on the capabilities of your product rather than vice versa.

Perhaps unsurprisingly IBM presented some radical new thinking about the management of big data where searching vast volumes of information is carried out by algorithms based not on keyword searching but on the relationship between the words themselves which they believe will return more meaningful results.  It is estimated that there are 500,000 new patents and technical articles on materials every year and so it is clear that more sophisticated and specific data management methodologies are desperately needed.

Penetrating the excellent networking facilitated by the KTN and KCMC I could detect that the high level of infrastructure support in UK industry for the chemistry in materials sector. It was good to cement relations with our UK allies but the challenges are global and so I slipped away to prepare for my next overseas assignment.