The Chair addresses three main categories to set the agenda for materials and design research in the Design Engineering Department:

  1. Smart Materials: Materials which are able to sense and respond to different situations; that have one or more properties that can be significantly changed in a controlled manner by external stimuli, such as moisture, electric, pressure, temperature, etc. (e.g. shape memory alloys, piezoelectric textiles, temperature sensitive polymers, etc.).
  2. Advanced Materials: Materials with superior mechanical/physical properties such as advanced metals, alloys, ceramics, composites, plastics etc. This category also covers the emerging materials for advanced manufacturing, such as functionally graded materials (FGM) made for multi-material 3D printing (e.g. materials with graded optical properties like colour, gloss, translucency and texture).
  3. Environmentally Sensitive Materials: They are developed as environmentally sensitive substitutes to materials derived from petroleum (e.g. materials made of waste, mycelium-based materials, natural fibre composites, bio-based plastics, etc.).

The research crossing these three categories of materials investigates possible ways to mobilize materials for novel functionalities; rich, intuitive, meaningful user experiences; and sustainable products in design. A recent example to demonstrate this endeavour is an on-going European project, Light.Touch.Matters (LTM) (FP7-2012-NMP), focusing on design driven development of touch sensitive luminous flexible plastics for applications in care & well-being. In the project product designers and material researchers collaborate to jointly develop a fully new generation of smart materials that combine touch sensitivity with luminosity, based on latest developments in polymeric piezo materials and flexible OLEDs.

Key publications

Accordingly, the Chair of Emerging Materials advocates the challenging couplings of theory and practice from materials science, design engineering and social sciences, and embeds this understanding in cross-departmental, cross-faculties, national and international research projects and in industry collaborations, as well as in materials education in design.

Research projects