Research Fellows Directory
Dr Melanie Bradley
University of Bristol
Over the last two decades, there has been an increasing interest in stimulus-responsive, or smart, materials. The definition of a smart material is one that can sense stimulus from its surrounding, e.g. temperature or light, and react to it in a useful, reliable, reproducible manner. Smart materials therefore respond to changes in the environment in a rather predictable manner and some have a ‘memory’ as they revert back to their original state once the stimulus is removed. The dispersion behaviour of smart particles can be manipulated by external stimuli such as temperature, pH, electric/magnetic fields or light. Such materials are also attractive in many applications since changes in material properties can be triggered which provides an ‘on’ and ‘off’ control.
Microgels are a type of smart particle. They are defined as cross-linked polymer particles that show reversible swelling/deswelling behaviour depending on local conditions, e.g. pH and temperature. They are stimulus responsive, easily functionalised particles that are prepared with good size control, their networks are soluble in an aqueous environment, they can be made using biocompatible polymers, and they are able to encapsulate and release solutes. My research focuses on the preparation, characterisation and application of microgel particles. I am interested in controlling the chemical design of microgels by introducing chemical functionality into the particles either during synthesis or through post-chemical modification techniques. Control over the chemical and physical properties of microgel particles is important in their application in surface coatings, cosmetics, pharmaceutics, sensors and materials science particularly for regenerative medicine.