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Smart and Functional Materials research at The Open University is driving forward the development of novel solutions to practical problems, and expanding scientific knowledge, in the fields of Energy, Nanotechnology, Diagnostics and Material Analysis using ‘smart materials’.
Smart materials have properties that react to changes in their environment. This means that their properties can be changed by external conditions, such as temperature, light, pressure or electricity. These changes are reversible and can be repeated many times.
The Biological Materials and Therapeutics group showed for the first time that a nanoparticle could have selective cancer cell toxicity and radiosensing potential. This discovery holds great promise for developing low-cost cancer nanotherapeutics.
The group’s expertise cuts across analytical chemistry, pharmacology and biology and seeks to create novel solutions for drug and food supplement delivery.
The Nanoscale Energy and Surface Engineering group has developed/discovered methods for controlling the geometries of 2D materials. These materials, sometimes referred to as single layer materials, are crystalline materials consisting of a single layer of atoms. They have uses in applications such as photovoltaics, semiconductors, electrodes and water purification.
The group works with materials ranging from graphene and organic semiconductors, to inorganic materials and enzymes, across a wide range of real-life applications.
The Analysis and Diagnostics group explores the enhanced mechanical properties of polymer composites filled with carbon nanotubes, the improved strength of which makes them suitable for demanding engineering applications, such as Structural materials for aerospace, transport, marine and in sporting goods.
The group has a diverse research programme focusing on commercial and custom-made polymers, nanocomposites, novel inorganic-organic hybrid materials, and nanometrology. Additionally, the group studies the degradation of implantable materials used for regenerative medicine.
The Synthesis group researches novel materials with direct applications in the chemical and healthcare industries and also in areas such as waste, sustainability and the environment.
One of the materials the group researches is nanocages, in particular, a popular silicon-based nanocage called polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxane, or POSS, which they are investigating for incorporation into materials used for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.
The group has also developed solutions to technical problems thanks to the versatility of organosilicon compounds. Examples of their extensive use in modern life include:
In the video below, hear what Peter Taylor, Professor of Organic Chemistry has to say about the uses of silicone:
The Environmental Applications group research focuses on developing and analysing novel materials for environmental applications in the real-world.
Recent research demonstrates the potential usefulness of atmospheric plasmas for preventing hospital-acquired infections.
The group has the expertise to tackle contemporary research challenges in environmental, sustainability and waste issues. It is also a leader in molecular imprinting, a highly specialised technique used in chemical sensing, and its potential uses in the areas of biological and environmental research.