Year/Course: 2021-2022, Lent 2022

Inventors: Dr. Eugene Terentjev & Mohand Saed, Physics & Cambridge Smart Plastics
Mentor: Bob Pettigrew

The research team are experts in creating smart polymeric materials with unusual properties, and have set up a startup company called ‘Cambridge Smart Plastics’ which has successfully received funding from Innovate UK.

The i-Team will be focusing their research on the inventors’ family of polymer elastomer materials (rubbery plastics) which have two essential and unique properties:

1. Between 0C-60C the materials show anomalous damping, allowing them to dissipate mechanical energy of vibrations and dampen impacts. The tests of impact by a projectile show that 5% of energy is rebound, 0.6% energy is transmitted, and ca. 94% energy dissipated. The tests of vibration and resonance show that the Q-factor is below 0.4 (overdamped material), with dissipation increasing even further above 10kHz.
2. Related to this anomalous damping, is the anomalous adhesion (often called pressure sensitive adhesion): the surface of this plastic is very sticky between 0-60C, but is not sticky at all below 0C or above 60C. This is reversible by heating/cooling cycles.

The plastic can be injection moulded or 3D printed and can be used to fill irregular gaps. The materials are more expensive than normal silicone but are based on a widely-available starting material.

Their unique properties enable a wide range of possible applications, which the i-Team will need to investigate by interviewing relevant industry experts, while working with the inventors to understand the state of the art. Possible applications include protecting e-car battery and LIDAR systems from impact, or developing antivibration ‘legs’ of sensitive MRI or CAT scan instruments. Other ideas have ranged from damping vibrations in turbine blades, to producing customised 3D-printed arterial stents.

The i-Team will be asked to identify and analyse a wide range of possible applications, looking initially at the market for damping rubbery materials, and expanding if needed into injection-moulding or 3D printing as a manufacturing method. Based on the results of their industry interviews they will be expected to recommend some specific applications for the inventors to pursue at the end of the project.