As a society we love to travel - whether it’s for business, to see family, or simply to see the world. However, this desire to travel comes at a cost: our transport habits currently contribute about 30% of European CO2 emissions annually. As engineers we have to find ways to make vehicles more efficient.
My research focusses on next-generation materials for vehicles that will help reduce their weight and hence CO2 emissions. My background is in aerospace and composite materials, although I am interested in all aspects of green transport, and energy production.
Together with my research group, we are exploiting the concept of multifunctionality to design materials that perform more than one function simultaneously. For example, we have found that carbon fibres make good battery electrodes, as well as being an excellent structural material. We have combined these two functions into one material to make a structural battery. Our idea is to combine energy storage in structural parts - for example the roof of an electric car could store electrical energy as well functioning as a structural component – that could ultimately save weight at a systems level contributing to more efficient transport.
We have shown that using lithium ions to electrochemically activate carbon fibres it is possible to create a shape-morphing carbon fibre composite that is controlled electrically using just 2 V. I have also shown that this concept can be used to create structural strain sensors and energy harvesters, as well as investigating different intercalation ions such as sodium and potassium.
My PhD thesis is available to read online here.
Originally from Scotland, I studied my Masters of Engineering in Aeronautical Engineering at Glasgow University, before working as a project leader for the National Composites Centre in Bristol, England. Having finished my PhD I am now employed as a Technical Project Manager at CorPower Ocean developing renewable energy devices to capture energy from ocean waves.