Our Experts

One of our Professors within the Faculty of Technology is a leading materials experts.

Professor Alan Wheatley

Professor Alan Wheatley
Alan has been actively involved with advanced materials for over 30 years.  His main work is in the field of polymers and polymer-matrix composites. One major strand of this work relates to the development of low cost carbon fibre for automotive applications.  Essentially, this work aims to remove the barriers to the widespread adoption of carbon fibre in mainstream automobiles. To this end, he is the UK representative on the International Energy Agency (IEA) executive committee for “Advanced Materials for Transportation Applications”. He works closely with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in the USA and contributes to their Low Cost Carbon Fibre research activities. The low cost carbon fibre research has led to a number of collaborative publications between ORNL and the University of Sunderland.  Two such recent publications are cited below:

Wheatley A, Warren C D and Das S (2014): Development of Low-Cost Carbon Fibre for Automotive Applications, Advanced Composite Materials for Automotive Applications: Structural Integrity and Crashworthiness, 1st Edition, Edited by Ahmed Elmarakbi.

Wheatley A, Warren C D and Das S (2014): Low-Cost Carbon Fibre: Applications, Performance and Cost Models, Advanced Composite Materials for Automotive Applications: Structural Integrity and Crashworthiness, 1st Edition, Edited by Ahmed Elmarakbi.

The benefits of the adoption of such high-performance lightweight materials into automotive structures include (i) increased structural integrity and (ii) increased fuel efficiency.  The drawback is, inevitably, cost. The resulting cost-benefit analysis is the basis of many materials selection issues in the automotive field.  This is why Formula One cars and modern aircraft are built predominantly from carbon fibre, but most current generation cars are not. However, the quest for even lighter, stiffer and stronger materials does not end with carbon fibre. Recent developments in advanced materials, such as the discovery of graphene, have the potential to make cars, trucks and aircraft stiffer, stronger, lighter and more fuel-efficient than ever before.  Graphene is the the thinnest, strongest material known – 200 times stronger than steel. Research work is ongoing at Sunderland to determine how best to exploit the properties of this new “wonder material”.

Additional Publications and further research information

 

This page was published on 8 October 2018