Extreme weather conditions have proven to be a significant challenge in many industrial sectors. Surface related phenomenon such as icing and erosion are key challenges in harsh environments that coatings technology has not been able to successfully address.
Erosion resistant coatings have been investigated in some depth with few showing any promise. Typically, the coating and substrate material have very different mechanical properties and this mismatch leads to considerable stresses at the interface. This leads to the failure of the coating and increased macro-scale roughness negatively affecting the aerodynamic performance.
The PhD project is aimed at the design and the synthetization of functional additives with structural hierarchy that are able to confer hydrophobicity and erosion resistance to a bulk resin without adversely affecting the intrinsic properties of the bulk whilst bringing about a step change in the efficacy of the performance of the composites made with these resins.
Different sizes of silica nano-particles will be synthetized via the well-known sol-gel technique Stӧber process (Stӧber, 1988). The range of diameters of the spheres produced will vary and a combination of sizes to form the so-called ‘raspberry-like-structures’ will be also investigated.
The particles will be exposed to a surface treatment that will allow the functionalisation of each of the particles with a determined functional group to provide hydrophobicity and compatibility with the matrix.
An accurate evaluation and definition of suitable method and steps in order to incorporate nano-additives into the bulk resins will be also considered.
Finally, the modified bulk resins (dispersions) will be analysed in order to evaluate their thermal, mechanical and repellent properties through the use of TGA (thermal properties), surface energy and roll-off angles (repellency properties), RAMAN, NMR and other spectroscopic techniques (dispersions), and so on.
Potential end-user applications are numerous and the initial focus will be on wind turbine blades, aircraft and rotorcraft leading edges, automotive components and cryogenic storage tanks for space applications.