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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


Effective and Fast-Screening Route to Evaluate Dynamic Elastomer-Filler Network Reversibility for Sustainable Rubber Composite Design (2023-12-07)
Xia, Tian; Wemyss, Alan M.; Salehiyan, Reza; Heeley, Ellen L.; Hu, Xiao; Tang, Fengzai; Sun, Yuchen; Hughes, Darren J.; McNally, Tony and Wan, Chaoying
ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, 11(50) (pp. 17857-17869)

Revisiting stress-oscillation in cold drawing of poly(ethylene terephthalate) (2023-09-15)
Heeley, Ellen; Smith, Jessica; Wan, Chaoying; Huband, Steven; Brambley, E and Hughes, Darren
Polymer, 285, Article 126364

Oligomeric Curing Activators Enable Conventional Sulfur-Vulcanized Rubbers to Self-Heal (2022-10-14)
Wemyss, Alan M.; Marathianos, Arkadios; Heeley, Ellen L.; Ekeocha, James; Morishita, Yoshihiro; di Ronza, Raffaele; Bernal, M. Mar; Haddleton, David M. and Wan, Chaoying
ACS Applied Polymer Materials, 4(10) (pp. 7868-7877)

Tuning triboelectric and energy harvesting properties of dielectric elastomers via dynamic ionic crosslinks (2022-05-21)
Hu, Xiao; Zhang, Runan; Wemyss, Alan M.; Elbanna, Mohamed A.; Heeley, Ellen L.; Arafa, Mustafa; Bowen, Chris; Wang, Shifeng; Geng, Xueyu and Wan, Chaoying
Materials Advances(10) (pp. 4213-4226)

Enzymatic hydrolysis of bacterial cellulose in the presence of a non-catalytic cerato-platanin protein (2022-04)
Rovera, Cesare; Luti, Simone; Pazzagli, Luti; Heeley, Ellen L.; Wan, Chaoying; Romano, Diego and Farris, Stefano
Journal of Applied Polymer Science, 139, Article 51886(14)

Crystallisation behaviour of composites of HDPE and MWCNTs: The effect of nanotube dispersion, orientation and polymer deformation (2020-06-26)
Amoroso, Lorena; Heeley, Ellen L.; Ramadas, Sivaram Nishal and McNally, Tony
Polymer, 201, Article 122587

In-situ uniaxial drawing of poly-L-lactic acid (PLLA): Following the crystalline morphology development using time-resolved SAXS/WAXS (2020)
Heeley, Ellen L.; Billimoria, Kharmen; Parsons, Nathan; Figiel, Łukasz; Keating, Elspeth M.; Cafolla, Conor T.; Crabb, Eleanor M. and Hughes, Darren J.
Polymer, 193, Article 122353

Effects of an ionic liquid and processing conditions on the ß-polymorph crystal formation in poly(vinylidene fluoride) (2019-09)
Pickford, Tom; Gu, Xu; Heeley, Ellen and Wan, Chaoying
CrystEngComm, 21(36) (pp. 5418-5428)

Self-assembly of fluoride-encapsulated polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxane (POSS) nanocrystals (2019)
Heeley, Ellen; El Aziz, Youssef; Ellingford, Christopher; Jetybayeva, Albina; Wan, Chaoying; Crabb, Eleanor; Taylor, Peter G. and Bassindale, Alan
CrystEngComm, 21(4) (pp. 710-723)

Stress-oscillation behaviour of semi-crystalline polymers: the case of poly(butylene succinate) (2018-12-05)
Wan, Chaoying; Heeley, Ellen L.; Zhou, Yutao; Wang, Shifeng; Cafolla, Conor T.; Crabb, Eleanor M. and Hughes, Darren J.
Soft Matter, 14(45) (pp. 9175-9184)

An investigation into the crystalline morphology transitions in poly-L-lactic acid (PLLA) under uniaxial deformation in the quasi-solid-state regime (2018-04-01)
Billimoria, Kharmen; Heeley, Ellen L.; Parsons, Nathan and Figiel, Łukasz
European Polymer Journal, 101 (pp. 127-139)

The formation of a nanohybrid shish-kebab (NHSK) structure in melt-processed composites of poly (ethylene terephthalate) (PET) and multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) (2017-05-19)
Heeley, Ellen L.; Hughes, Darren J.; Crabb, Eleanor M.; Bowen, James; Bikondoa, Oier; Mayoral, Beatriz; Leung, Sandy and McNally, Tony
Polymer, 117 (pp. 208-219)

Confirmation of a Nanohybrid Shish-Kebab (NHSK) Structure in Composites of PET and MWCNTs (2017-01-15)
Heeley, Ellen L.; Hughes, Darren J.; Crabb, Eleanor M.; Bowen, James; Bikondoa, Oier; Mayoral, Beatriz and McNally, Tony
Journal of Polymer Science. Part B: Polymer Physics, 55(2) (pp. 132-137)

Structure evolution in poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET) - Multi-walled carbon nanotube (MWCNT) composite films during in-situ uniaxial deformation (2016-06-01)
Heeley, Ellen L.; Hughes, Darren J.; Crabb, Eleanor; Kershaw, Matthew; Shebanova, Olga; Leung, Sandy and McNally, Tony
Polymer, 92 (pp. 239-249)

Crystallization and morphology development in polyethylene-octakis(n-octadecyldimethylsiloxy)octasilsesquioxane nancomposite blends. (2015-04)
Heeley, E. L.; Hughes, D. J.; Taylor, P. G. and Bassindale, A. R.
RSC Advances, 5(44) (pp. 34709-34719)

Morphology and crystallization kinetics of polyethylene/long alkyl-chain substituted Polyhedral Oligomeric Silsesquioxanes (POSS) nanocomposite blends: a SAXS/WAXS study (2014-02-28)
Heeley, Ellen L.; Hughes, Darren J.; El Aziz, Youssef; Taylor, Peter G. and Bassindale, Alan R.
European Polymer Journal, 51 (pp. 45-56)

Residual stress in a laser welded EUROFER blanket module assembly using non-destructive neutron diffraction techniques (2014-02)
Hughes, D; Koukovini-Platia, E and Heeley, Ellen
Fusion Engineering and Design, 89(2) (pp. 104-108)

Effect of processing parameters on the morphology development during extrusion of polyethylene tape: an in-line Small-Angle X-ray Scattering (SAXS) study (2013-11-14)
Heeley, E. L.; Gough, T.; Hughes, D. J.; Bras, W.; Rieger, J. and Ryan, A. J.
Polymer, 54(24) (pp. 6580-6588)

Properties and self-assembled packing morphology of long alkyl-chained substituted polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxanes (POSS) cages (2013-02)
Heeley, Ellen L.; Hughes, Darren J.; El Aziz, Youssef; Williamson, Ian; Taylor, Peter G. and Bassindale, Alan R.
Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, 15 (pp. 5518-5529)

Linear long alkyl chain substituted POSS cages: the effect of alkyl chain length on the self-assembled packing morphology (2013)
Heeley, Ellen L.; Hughes, Darren J.; El Aziz, Youssef; Taylor, Peter and Bassindale, Alan R.
Macromolecules, 46(12) (pp. 4944-4954)

A non-destructive method for the measurement of residual strains in semi-crystalline polymer components (2011-02-15)
Hughes, D.J.; Heeley, E. L. and Curfs, C.
Materials Letters, 65(3) (pp. 530-533)

A small-angle X-ray scattering study of the effect of chain architecture on the shear-induced crystallization of branched and linear poly(ethylene terephthalate) (2007-04-22)
Hanley, T.; Sutton, D.; Heeley, E.; Moad, G. and Knott, R.
Journal of Applied Crystallography, 40(Supp.) (pp. 599-604)

Shear-Induced Crystallization in blends of Model Linear and Long-Chain Branched Hydrogenated Polybutadienes (2006-07-25)
Heeley, Ellen L.; Fernyhough, Christine M.; Graham, Richard S.; Olmsted, Peter D.; Inkson, Nathanael J.; Embery, John; Groves, David J.; McLeish, Tom C.B.; Morgovan, Ariana C.; Meneau, Florian; Bras, Wim and Ryan, Anthony J.
Macromolecules, 39(15) (pp. 5058-5071)

Polymer processing: Using synchrotron radiation to follow structure development in commercial and novel polymer materials (2005-08)
Heeley, E.L.; Gough, T.; Bras, W.; Gleeson, A.J.; Coates, P.D. and Ryan, A.J.
Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section B: Beam Interactions with Materials and Atoms, 238(1-4) (pp. 21-27)

Are metastable, precrystallisation, density-fluctuations a universal phenomena? (2003-08)
Heeley, Ellen L.; Poh, C. Kit; Li, Wu; Maidens, Anna; Bras, Wim; Dolbyna, Igor P.; Gleeson, Anthony J.; Terrill, Nicolas J.; Fairclough, Patrick A.; Olmsted, Peter D.; Ristic, Rile R.; Hounslow, Micheal J. and Ryan, Anthony J.
Faraday Discussions, 122 (pp. 343-361)

Recent experiments on a small-angle/wide-angle X-ray scattering beam line at the ESRF (2003-06)
Bras, W.; Dolbnya, I.P.; Detollenaere, D.; van Tol, R.; Malfois, M.; Greaves, G.N.; Ryan, A.J. and Heeley, E.
Journal of Applied Crystallography, 36(3) (pp. 791-794)

Early stages of crystallization in Isotactic Polypropylene (2003-05-20)
Heeley, E.L.; Maidens, A.V.; Olmsted, P.D.; Bras, W.; Dolbyna, I.P.; Fairclough, J.P.A.; Terrill, N.J. and Ryan, A.J.
Macromolecules, 36(10) (pp. 3656-3665)

Shear-induced crystallization of polyethylene studied by small- and wide-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS/WAXS) techniques (2002)
Heeley, Ellen L.; Morgovan, Ariana C.; Bras, Wim; Dolbyna, Igor P.; Gleeson, Anthony J. and Ryan, Anthony J.
PhysChemComm, 5(23) (pp. 158-160)