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University awarded £1.1M to discover small solutions for big problems! – University of Reading

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University awarded £1.1M to discover small solutions for big problems!

Release Date 09 January 2009

Polymer scientists at the University of Reading have recently been awarded a prestigious Platform Grant by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council valued at over £1.1M, which could lead to exciting discoveries such as low-cost drinking water for the developing world, improved fuel cells for clean/renewable energy, new structural materials and adhesives, and novel therapies for protein-based diseases.

The core theme of the research is the design of new polymeric materials with specified structures on the nanometre length scale (1 nanometre ≈ 1/1000 of the width of a human hair). Structuring on this length scale gives materials with entirely new properties.

Professors Colquhoun, Hamley and Matsen, and Dr Hayes from the Polymer Science Centre at the University of Reading will use the grant to support a team of four experienced postdoctoral researchers. They will design and synthesize new polymers, characterise their properties and applications, and carry out computational studies to explain and predict the behaviour of new, nanostructured materials.

The grant, which will run for five years, provides a platform for ongoing research programmes on a wide range of advanced polymeric materials, with applications in fuel cells for the hydrogen economy, self-repairing materials, water purification, and healthcare – with particular relevance to protein-misfolding diseases such as Alzheimer's. The team will also work on the development of information-transfer in polymer systems and on self-healing materials that can, without external input, repair damage to their surfaces.

Professor Ian Hamley, Head of Physical Chemistry at the University, said: "We are delighted to receive this major grant which recognises the excellence of the research team, and its very successful track record of research and its exploitation in applications.

"Part of this project will focus on designing molecules that could help in understanding and treating diseases such as Alzheimer's that are due to the natural structure of the protein being disrupted, causing the protein to aggregate. By combining protein sequences with polymers, we plan to develop molecules that can disrupt aggregation. Research into production of low-cost drinking water will focus on the design and development of low-cost membrane filters with nanometre-scale pores, which can remove all contaminants (bacteria, viruses, pesticide residues, heavy metals and even salt) from water. The work will also investigate the use of soluble polymers to trap such contaminants and aid their removal by the filter."

ENDS

For all media enquiries please contact Dr Lucy Chappell on 0118 378 7391 or l.chappell@reading.ac.uk

Notes to editors

The University of Reading has been a major centre for polymer science for more than thirty years.

The University of Reading is ranked as one of the UK's top research-intensive universities. The quality and diversity of the University's research and teaching is recognised internationally as one of the top 200 universities in the world. The University is home to more than 50 research centres, many of which are recognised as international centres of excellence such as agriculture, biological and physical sciences, European histories and cultures, and meteorology.

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