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Dr Ellen Heeley

Profile summary

Professional biography

Seniour Lecturer in Physical Chemistry and FRSC.

Research interests

Polymer processing and structure development.                                                                                                                                                               

My research interests and publications are focussed on developing an understanding the complex relationship between molecular variables and structure development in polymer materials. Specifically, work has focussed on the physical simulation of industrial processing of polymers using advanced X-ray and neutron techniques. This includes commercial and tailor-made polymers, nanocomposites, copolymers and novel inorganic-organic hybrid materials. This is an interdisciplinary research area spanning materials science, chemistry and physics. Importantly, this research addresses current industrial challenges in the use of polymeric materials in manufacturing products. A detailed understanding of the molecular architecture during materials processing operations allows the prediction and improvement of physical, chemical and mechanical properties ultimately giving better product performance.

My current research focusses on the development and characterisation of polymer-nanocomposite materials including organic additives (carbon and graphene nanotubes) and inorganic-organic hybrid additives to commercial polymers (polyolefins, polyesters etc.). This research is particularly relevant in today’s industrial market of advanced materials development.  Composite materials research is gaining attention in both government funding and industry investment with a view to developing new lightweight, energy efficient products (including manufacturing and resource efficiency) which are tailored to specific requirements.

Current research projects include:

  • Development of creep resistant polymer composites for automotive applications.
  • Investigating structure-property relationships and crystallization during materials processing (polymers and nanocomposites).
  • Development of thermoplastic carbon-fibre composites for vehicle light-weighting.
  • Development of polymer nanocomposites and composite materials (graphene and MWCNTs).
  • Structural design and integrity of materials: residual stresses in polymers, polymer/metal composites and metal weldments for structural components.
  • Determining the self-assembly, crystallization, packing morphologies and liquid crystalline properties of functionalised Polyhedral Oligomeric Silsesquioxanes (POSS).


Teaching interests

In my current post I am responsible for curriculum design and development and the production of high-quality course materials for teaching purposes delivered on-line media via a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), in physical chemistry, materials and molecular Sciences. I teach on the OUs level 2 and level 3 chemistry modules, as well as developing and teaching in our level 1 and level 2 laboratory modules. 

External collaborations

I have a visiting academic position at The University of Warwick, Warwick manufacturing group, (WMG) where I collaborate and with Professor Tony McNally (IINM), Dr Chaoying Wan (IINM), and Dr Darren Hughes’s groups in several research projects. I also have collaborative projects in composite laminate materials with Neil Reynolds and Dr Vannessa Goodship (WMG) and Dr Mike Jenkins, University or Birmingham University, School of Metallurgy and Materials.

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
Centre for Earth, Planetary, Space and Astronomical Research (CEPSAR)CentreFaculty of Science