Dr Nicholas J. Warren
- Associate Professor, School of Chemical and Process Engineering, University of Leeds, UK (2021-present)
- University Academic Fellow, School of Chemical and Process Engineering, University of Leeds, UK (2016-2021)
- Post-Doctoral Research Associate, Department of Chemistry, University of Sheffield, UK (2011-2016)
- PhD, Polymer Chemistry, University of Sheffield, UK (2007-2011).
- MSci (Hons), Chemistry with Industrial Experience, University of Bristol, UK (2001-2005).
My research group focusses on the synthesis of functional polymeric materials controlled polymerisation techniques (such as RAFT, ATRP or n-carboxyanhydride ROP) which enable polymers to be prepared with extremely precise and narrow molecular weight distributions, often meaning fine control over structural and mechanical properties can be achieved. Achieving this control is key to enabling effective use, so within they group we are also seeking ways of enhancing precision and reproducibility in polymer synthesis using engineering approaches. This includes the development of new automated platforms equipped with bespoke reactors (e.g. tubular or mini-CSTR cascades for flow chemistry) and online monitoring instrumentation instrumentation. These enable real-time optimisation of polymerisation processes to achieve a polymer product with a predefined specification. By working with experts at the Institute of Process Research and Development (IPRD) here at the University of Leeds, we also aim to scale-up these techniques to allow for safer, more economical and less energy intensive methods of manufacturing the next generation of sustainable polymers.
Of particular interest is the synthesis of block copolymers, where two distinct polymer chains are joined together by a single covalent bond. When these chains are placed in a solvent which is selective for one of the blocks, they self-assemble on a molecular scale to form block copolymer nanoparticles. In-situ synthesis and self-assembly can also be achieved using heterogeneous polymerisation-induced self-assembly (PISA), which is a facile route to block copolymer nano-objects with exotic morphologies, including wormlike and vesicular particles. Moreover, by using specific monomers, responsive block copolymers can be designed so upon applying a stimulus (e.g. temperature, pH or salt concentration), they can undergo a transition such as swelling or a morphological change, which changes the observable or useful properties. We use advanced characterisation techniques to analyse these particles, including dynamic light scattering, electron microscopy and small-angle x-ray scattering. We are currently investigating these materials for an extremely broad array of applications ranging from drug and DNA delivery through to treatment of effluent produced by nuclear power plant decomissioning.
- Controlled Polymerisation techniques
- Continuous-flow polymer synthesis
- Self-assembly of multiblock copolymers
- Polymer Nanoparticle Synthesis and Characterisation
- Small-angle X-ray scattering.
- Colloidal systems
- Online Monitoring of Polymerisation
- Machine Learning and automtation in Polymer Synthesis
- MSci in Chemistry with Industrial Experience
- PhD in Polymer Chemistry
- Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry
Research groups and institutes
- Complex Systems and Processes
- Institute of Process Research and Development
- Functional Materials