R&D Example Technical Narrative
PROJECT 1: SIGNIFICANTLY IMPROVING THE TENSILE STRENGTH AND TEAR STRENGTH OF A MATERIAL
Work on this project commenced in [insert start date here] and was ongoing at the end of the reporting period.
What is the aim of this R&D project?
At the outset of this project, the primary objective was to develop and manufacture a unique material with significantly higher tensile strength compared to existing synthetic materials.
Material X typically has inferior tensile strength when compared to Material Y. Y, the strongest material used in the industry, is approximately 200 times stronger than X. Therefore, the goal of this project was to make substantial changes to material X to appreciably improve its tensile strength and tear strength.
What scientific or technological advance are you trying to achieve through this project?
The aim was to develop new technology that represents a significant advancement in the field of material science, as outlined in paragraph 9(b) of the BEIS guidelines.
The project focussed on the development of a new polymer based on Material X, with the addition of Material Z in the matrix. This polymer has never been used for industrial application and has never been manufactured on a large scale using existing manufacturing techniques. The new material needed to have a tensile strength and tear strength exceeding that of Material Y, whilst also having the ability of being manufactured on a large scale with consistent quality. The material also needs to be flexible enough for our proposed use.
Provide a review of the current state of technology in the industry relating to the product or process you’re trying to build through this R&D project.
Currently, polymers used in the industry exhibit lower tensile strength and tear strength compared to the type of polymer we sought to develop. Examples of these polymers include starch-based and cellulose-based materials like cellophane. These polymers typically have shorter chain lengths and a more crumpled structure, leading to reduced tensile strength. There exist polymers that do have improved strength but lack the requisite flexibility for our application.
Provide a brief overview of the timeline for this project.
The project commenced in November 202X where specific dispersions were tested, and input parameters such as temperature, particle shape, functionalization, or sonication were adjusted. Each iteration took approximately 2 to 4 weeks.
By March 202X a prototype for abuse testing had been developed, with plans to commence testing at scale in May 202X.
While the timeline for achieving the desired results varied depending on the polymer used, it was estimated to be between 6 months and 3 years. However, it could potentially take longer.
This project is still in its early phase, and further development is required to optimise performance and environmental impact. Continued trial and error iterations, where one factor is altered at a time, will lead to improved versions of the product.
What scientific or technological uncertainties did you face?
At the beginning of the project, there were various technical uncertainties. These included:
- Achieving a uniform dispersion of material X within the polymer matrix.
- Ensuring strong adhesion between the X particles and the polymers.
- Optimising the dispersion method to achieve maximum X loading without negatively impacting the film's mechanical properties.
- Determining the effect of Material Z addition on the film's transparency and flexibility.
- Identifying the ideal material type, size, and surface properties for the desired improvement in tensile strength and tear strength.
- Selecting the appropriate functionalization method for the material to improve compatibility with the polymer matrix.
- Identifying the optimal polymer composition and processing conditions to achieve the desired properties.
- Developing a cost-effective and scalable process for manufacturing the polymer film.
Resolution of Technical Uncertainties
To address these technical uncertainties, the project team conducted an extensive review of existing literature and research in the field. They performed a series of experiments, systematically testing various parameters, such as material type, size, surface properties, functionalisation, polymer composition, processing conditions, and dispersion methods.
The team analysed the dispersion quality through microscopy techniques and developed methods to enhance dispersion uniformity. They utilized characterization techniques, such as tensile testing and tear testing, to evaluate the mechanical properties of the resulting films. The team also collaborated with external experts to gain additional insights and independent assessments.
Through a combination of iterative development, experimental testing, and expert collaboration, the project team was able to resolve many of the technical uncertainties encountered.
Overall, the project is making progress towards achieving the desired objectives, but further work is needed to optimise the performance and scale up the manufacturing process.