Manufacturing the future
Twenty-first century manufacturing requires new materials and new techniques to produce them. My research takes place at the interface between chemistry, engineering and manufacturing. It is focused on the development of both novel polymers and sustainable processing strategies to deliver products with specific properties.
The ultimate aim is to enable the manufacture of complex, high-performance coatings, devices, composites and biomaterials that tackle real world problems.
Novel coatings – including gold – have real potential to open up new avenues to develop functional devices suitable for a range of applications including plasmonics, metamaterials, flexible electronics and biosensors.
This work, conducted both as industrial and academic research, has already led to 29 patent filings plus the commercialisation of 12 products, the latest of which obtained its CE mark in 2018. This research has potential in many areas: from the manufacture of drug-delivery devices, through the development of biofilm-resistant coatings for medical devices to novel vaccine manufacture. The aim is to accelerate translation of these new therapeutic options into real-life healthcare applications.
"Our vision is to develop novel manufacturing techniques and the polymeric materials for use in the very high-performance devices that are needed in the 21st century – which cannot be produced using current techniques."
Our vision is to develop novel manufacturing techniques and the polymeric materials for use in the very high-performance devices that are needed in the 21st century – which cannot be produced using current techniques.
Industry interest is significant, with funders, partners and collaborators including GSK, Astra Zeneca, Pfizer, Unilever, Nikon and Innovate UK, among many others.
A key part of our vision is to optimise the use of energy in materials processing. By moving away from fossil fuels in favour of processes powered by sustainably-generated electricity, such as microwave, laser, ultrasound and ultra- violet energy, we can make the entire process as sustainable as possible.
Derek Irvine is a Professor of Materials Chemistry, Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering.