Professor Alderson is Director of the Materials and Engineering Research Institute and Faculty Head of Business Development (Acting), and Professor of Smart Materials and Structures and undertakes highly collaborative interdisciplinary advanced materials research at the academia/industry interface. He is a recognised world authority on auxetic (negative Poisson’s ratio) materials, and has interests into related counterintuitive phenomena such as negative stiffness and negative thermal expansion. His research employs a combination of modelling and experimental methodologies to study the design-processing-structure-properties relationships in polymers, composites, textiles, cellular solids, inorganics and mechanical metamaterials from the nanoscale to the macroscale.
Since gaining his BSc and PhD in Physics at the University of Liverpool, Professor Alderson has worked for almost 30 years in the advanced materials field, with particular emphasis on auxetic (negative Poisson’s ratio) materials. Prior to joining the Materials and Engineering Research Institute in 2013, he was Director of the Institute for Materials Research and Innovation, Head of Sciences and Professor of Materials Physics at the University of Bolton. He has also worked in the Nuclear industry (BNFL) and held Directorships with I-zone Incubation Ltd and Auxetic Technologies Ltd.
He is a Member of the Institute of Physics (MInstP), Chartered Physicist (CPhys) and Chartered Scientist (CSci). He has served on 12 EPSRC panels (including panel chair), as a guest editor of several special/focus issues of Physica Status Solidi B and Smart Materials and Structures, and is a member of the Editorial Boards of Computational Methods in Science and Technology and Applied Sciences.
Over 150 papers have been published from his research collaborations into auxetic and related materials/structures, nuclear structure physics, conductive polymers and flame-retardant materials.
Technology transfer is a key focus and, in addition to his company Directorships, he is a co-inventor on 15 patent applications and has undertaken consultancies with many companies in the healthcare, sports and chemical sectors. His 15 patent applications relate to inventions for products in filtration, radiation sensing, manufacturing, apparel, advanced composites and biomedical applications. He has played leading roles with industry-facing consortia (e.g. Innovate UK REACTICS and EU FP CHISMACOMB), networks (EPSRC Auxetic Materials Network) and regional collaborative research centres (North West Composites Centre), and has been involved in collaborative research programmes worth in excess of £11M.
He is a keen communicator of science, regularly delivering seminars and workshops to the public, companies, trade events, and science and technology conferences. His award-winning research has featured in the Science Museum (London) and on BBC TV and Radio.
Awards for his research include:
• Kenneth Harris James prize of the Aerospace Industries Divisional Board of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (2008)
• EPSRC Life Sciences Interface Programme regional meeting prize (2003)
• De Montfort prize, SET Young Engineers and Scientists, House of Commons (2001)
Specialist areas of interest
- Auxetic materials;
- Mechanical metamaterials;
- Mechanical properties;
Department of Engineering and Mathematics, Materials and Engineering Research Institute
Science, Technology and Arts
Final year undergraduate and Masters project supervision:
MSc Advanced Materials Engineering, MSc Sports Engineering, MEng Mechanical Engineering,
BSc(Hons) Sport Technology, BSc (Hons) Aerospace Technology, BSc Mechanical Engineering, BSc Aeronautical Engineering,
BEng Mechanical Engineering
BEng Materials Engineering
- Polymers, Nanocomposites and Modelling Research Centre
- Materials and Engineering Research Institute
Professor Alderson's main research focus is on advanced and smart materials having unusual mechanical and thermal properties. A major activity is research into auxetic (negative Poisson's ratio) materials, which is now naturally extending into other negative phenomena (thermal expansion and stiffness).
Other research areas Andy has undertaken relate to nuclear structure physics, conductive polymers, flame-retardant materials and technical textiles. His research employs a combination of modelling and experimental methodologies to study the design-processing-structure-properties relationships in polymers, composites and inorganics from the nanoscale to the macroscale.
Andy is especially interested in developing materials having extremal/optimal properties for applications in the transport, healthcare technologies, advanced manufacturing and low carbon sectors.
Current and Recent Research Projects
October 2018-ongoing: Finite Element (FE) modelling of impact response of auxetic materials. Funded by SHU Faculty of STA GTA studentship. PhD student: Klaudia Cwiertka.
This project is a collaboration between MERI and the Department of Engineering and Maths. Finite element modelling is being employed to model naturally-occurring auxetic materials for the development of new biomimetic composites with enhanced impact protection capability. The relationships between structure and mechanical properties are being explored, along with a consideration of rate-dependency in the impact response of the composites.
October 2017—ongoing: Towards intrinsically-auxetic polymers. Funded by SHU VC PhD scholarship and an external company. PhD student: Shruti Mandhani.
The programme aims to develop a truly inherent (molecular-level) synthetic auxetic (negative Poisson's ratio) polymer for real-world application. Working with the Materials and Fluid Flow Modelling group, we are extending our previous work on scaling down known macrostructures for theoretical cross-linked polymers, and understanding natural auxetic inorganic and organic crystalline nanostructures, to a fully 3D system having connectivity similar to that achievable in elastomer materials. Analytical and computational (Finite Element and molecular) modelling techniques are being employed at mono-domain and poly-domain levels to identify key structural features and deformation mechanisms giving rise to auxetic behaviour.
October 2015—ongoing: Auxetic scaffolds for tissue engineering. Funded by Sheffield Children’s Hospitals (SCH), SHU VC PhD scholarship and an external company. Placement student: Jordan Roe; Research Assistant/PhD student (from Jan 2018): Paul Mardling.
This project is collaboration between the Biomolecular Sciences Research Centre (BMRC) and MERI, initially funded by SCH, with further funding via a SHU VC PhD scholarship matched by an external biomedical devices company. The overarching aim of the project is to develop a range of ‘auxetic’ porous scaffolds for eventual tissue engineering applications, which mimic the mechanical properties of soft tissues, promote migration, adhesion and differentiation of cells, and enable delivery of bioactive components. The produced scaffolds are being characterised for their structure and mechanical properties, prior to investigation in vitro. Tissue cells are being cultured on the scaffolds and the behaviour of the cells on the scaffolds determined using a variety of biochemical, histological, immunohistological, molecular biology, scanning electron microscopy and biomechanical analysis methods.
January 2014—ongoing: Application of auxetic materials to sports equipment design. Funded by Sheffield Hallam University (IMAGINE connectivity; Faculty of STA GTA studentship; Creating Knowledge Platform Challenge Fund) and external companies. PhD student: Olly Duncan.
This project is focussed on developing new and improved sporting impact protection materials and is part of a wider collaboration with the Centre for Sports Engineering Research and also Manchester Metropolitan University. A process to produce large area or volume isotropic, anisotropic and gradient one-piece auxetic foams is being developed, and foams produced and characterised for their mechanical and impact response properties. Significant reductions in peak acceleration are being found for the auxetic foams relative to their conventional counterparts.
April 2013—ongoing: Mechanical metamaterials. Funded by US ARO, SHU (Hallam Fund and Creating Knowledge Platform Challenge Fund) and ERASMUS. PhD student/Research Assistant: Trishan Hewage; Intern student: Margaux Sage.
This project is being undertaken in collaboration with the University of Bristol and Institut Polytechnique de Bordeaux for ENSEIRB-MATMECA to develop a new concept of a 'mechanical metamaterial' combining two
unusual properties: negative Poisson's ratio (NPR - the material becomes fatter when pulled) and negative stiffness (NS - the material becomes shorter when pulled). This has been achieved by embedding NS elements (foam, buckled beam or magnetic assembly) within a 2D NPR array of interlocking regular hexagon subunits. The large scale isotropic 2D assembly is now being extended into a 3D mechanical metamaterial using analytical and Finite Element modelling methodologies in the design stage, and 3D printing and mechanical testing combined with optical strain measurement in the production and characterisation stage.
July 2012—2018: A novel space creation and organ retraction system for laparoscopic surgery. Funded by EPSRC, HEIF and Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CMFT). PhD student: Dignesh Shah.
This project involved working with a team of surgeons and an NHS business development manager to devise novel mechanical expansion mechanisms for an innovative new device – the LaparOsphereTM - for space creation and organ retraction in laparoscopic surgery. Surface pressures and retraction distances applied to organs during abdominal surgery have been measured. Based on these measurements, CAD, Finite Element Modelling, laser cutting and 3D printing were being used to design and produce viable expansion mechanisms for the device.
My academic collaborators include/have included: Universities of Cambridge (Cavendish Laboratory and Melville Laboratory for Polymer Synthesis), Wales (Bangor), Exeter, Sheffield, Bristol, Hull, Manchester, Liverpool, Lancaster, Leeds, Salford, Liverpool John Moores, Imperial College, Manchester Metropolitan, Malta (Malta), Technical University IASI (Romania), Fraunhofer-IPA (Stuttgart, Germany), Technion (Israel), Texas at Austin (USA), University of Victoria (Canada), Institute of Molecular Physics (Polish Academy of Sciences) and Harbin Institute of Technology (China).
My industrial/business partners include/have included: BNFL, Acordis, Rhodia, Noveon Inc, Web Processing, Interface Fabrics, PW Greenhalgh, Du Pont, QinetiQ, Cytec Engineered Materials, IMMG S.A. (Greece), Italcompany Group (Italy), QWED (Poland), ICI/AkzoNobel, Rolls Royce, Hurel Hispano, SEOS Ltd, Dow Corning, Auxetix Ltd, Auxetic Technologies Ltd, Sara Lee Branded Apparel, Shakespeare Monofilament UK Ltd, TrusTECH/Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, BSN Medical Inc, Applied Biomedical Systems, Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield Children’s Hospital, Pioneer Healthcare.
Andy joined the University in 2013 from the University of Bolton. He is an experienced interviewee for print and broadcast media, mainly around the design and use of auxetic materials - which can be used for a variety of transport, advanced manufacturing and healthcare technologies, including in keyhole surgery.
Notable media coverage:
- The Conversation (Jan 2017). We’ve created a new vibration-proof ‘metamaterial’ that could save premature babies’ lives.
- The Conversation (May 2015). How seashells could inspire safer headgear.
- BBC Learning Zone (2015). Biometrics - Designed by Nature.
- AZOM (Oct 2014). An Introduction to Auxetic Materials: an Interview with Professor Andrew Alderson.