12 January 2018 09:50

Lancaster University is part of a consortium that will undertake ground-breaking research into products utilising new composite materials that have the ability to regenerate or ‘self-heal’.

The three-year Manufacturing Immortality Project will investigate the development of new materials consisting of biological and non-biological parts.

Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the project involves seven institutions and is led by the University of Bristol.

Researchers at Lancaster University will focus on creating new materials for use in deep-sea electrical networks where only small increases in connection reliability can lead to large cost savings. This area is increasingly important with expansions in off-shore power generation such as wind farms.

Lancaster researchers will also focus on new materials for electrochemical energy devices – such as the batteries and fuel cells that power a wide range of electronic devices and emerging products such as electric vehicles.

Bio-hybrid systems could maintain electrical connections within batteries - such as the lithium-ion batteries that power everyday items such as smart phones and lap-top computers. These batteries are currently susceptible to losing performance due to degradation in internal structures and interconnections.

Dr Richard Dawson, Senior Lecturer at Lancaster University's Engineering Department and researcher on the Manufacturing Immortality Project, said: “This exciting project aims to develop new materials utilising biological and non-biological composites for products that would be able to regenerate, and self-repair.

“The research applications represent a significant challenge, but also the opportunity for great scientific adventure and engineering innovation.”

The consortium, which is working closely with 13 industrial partners, includes experts from the University of Bristol, Sheffield Hallam University, University of Manchester, Cranfield University, University of Aberdeen, Lancaster University and Northumbria University.

The EPSRC has provided the consortium with £2.7 million to fund the research.

These projects build on Lancaster’s deep-rooted expertise in material science as exemplified by the University’s Materials Science Institute – an interdisciplinary research institute tackling grand challenges in society and industry.