Our monthly spotlight on the work and lives of the next generation of water@leeds researchers.
August 2022: Ashley Victoria
PhD title: Developing a Commercial Process for the Sustainable Production of All-Cellulose Composites from Textile Waste.
Supervisors: Professor Mike Ries School of Physics and Astronomy, Dr Peter Hine School of Physics and Astronomy, Dr Richard Hodgett Leeds University Business School
Photograph: Ashley presenting her research.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I’ve had quite an eclectic journey prior to starting my PhD studies, which has shaped who I am as a researcher and helped me to discover what I’m passionate about. I was born and raised in Yorkshire and gained my MEng in chemical engineering and an MSc in Textiles Technology here at the University of Leeds. I also studied fashion design at the London College of Fashion and worked as a clothing designer for several years which gave me the chance to travel and see the world. The time came where I was ready to pursue a PhD and apply my skills and experience as a researcher around sustainable materials and waste valorisation.
Why did you choose Leeds University?
I was keen to do my PhD at an institution that encourages high impact research, and so exploring opportunities at Leeds was an obvious choice for me. I discovered the Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Molecules to Product and felt that this was the ideal place for me begin my journey in research. Studying at Leeds has allowed me to widen my network and involve myself in many multidisciplinary activities in addition to my PhD, working on sustainability projects on campus and running outreach events for example. I’ve enjoyed my PhD journey a great deal so far and am excited to see it where it takes me.
Ashley’s research – Fast Fashion To Smart Materials: All-Cellulose Composites
The fashion industry is a key contributor to the increased amount of residual waste destined for landfill or incineration, with a little over 20% of end-of-life clothing currently being recycled. Additionally, many non-textile materials are still being produced that are not suitable for recycling.
Ashley is part of a research team based in the School of Physics and Astronomy which is tackling these issues simultaneously by exploring the use of end-of-life textiles in the production of all-cellulose composites (ACCs). ACCs are composites where both fibre and reinforcement are comprised entirely of cellulose, a naturally occurring biopolymer with inherently strong mechanical properties. Having chemically identical components gives ACCs an advantage over traditional fibre reinforced polymer composites, where recycling mixed material components can be challenging.
ACCs can be produced by partially dissolving cellulosic material in a solvent, and after removing the solvent, the dissolved cellulose coagulates to form a solid material that becomes the matrix; this holds the undissolved fraction of fibres together. The majority of research into ACCs has focused on producing thin films but achieving thickness in these materials would expand their potential applications.
In this work, a novel processing route has been developed for producing ACCs with enhanced interlaminar adhesion between multiple layers, allowing thicker composites to be produced without risk of delamination. The process additionally can be completed in a reduced timescale to previous studies, and still yield enhanced mechanical properties.
Read more about this research here:
Ashley Victoria, Michael Edward Ries, Peter John Hine, Use of interleaved films to enhance the properties of all-cellulose composites, Composites Part A: Applied Science and Manufacturing, Volume 160, 2022, 107062,ISSN 1359-835X,