Predicting the degradation of polymer composites in marine environments

National Physical Laboratory / Element
University of Surrey

Polymer composites are increasingly used in applications such as wind turbines, bridges, and ships. However, little is known about predicting the durability of such materials in harsh marine environments. Jasmine’s research aims to examine how polymer composites degrade in such environments, with the long-term aim of developing techniques to detect early signs of material breakdown and track their effect on a product’s life cycle.

These materials, composed of a polymer resin and glass or carbon reinforcing fibres, can exhibit a reduction in properties, and so shortening of lifetime, upon exposure to combinations of UV, temperature, moisture and stress. Life prediction of polymer composites is critical from safety and economic perspectives. Jasmine will undertake a series of tests to identify key degradation mechanisms occurring in polymer composites exposed to harsh marine environments, and will develop and standardise suitable monitoring techniques.

Jasmine will use accelerated testing to expose the materials to conditions such as elevated temperatures and water pressures. The aged material will then be assessed using techniques including mechanical testing, Fourier Transform Infra-red spectroscopy, dynamic mechanical analysis, and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance.

Jasmine chose to undertake an Industrial Fellowship as it enables her to further expand her academic knowledge, while making an industrially relevant impact. She is currently studying for an Engineering Doctorate, partnered between University of Surrey, NPL and Element. This has allowed her to undertake pioneering industry work, which would not would not have been possible through the traditional PhD route. Jasmine also undertook a 1-year industrial placement at Imerys Minerals as part of her University of Bath, MChem (Hons) Chemistry degree, that is proving to be an excellent knowledge base for her current project.