The group is headed by Dr Athina E Markaki. Particular research interests within the group include fibre network materials, X-ray computed tomography, material–tissue interactions and cell mechanotransduction.
One of the main interests of the group is the development of fibre network materials. A central feature of the research is to study the various inter-relationships between processing conditions, network architecture (void content, distributions of fibre segment orientation and length, anisotropy, homogeneity etc.), microstructural factors (grain size, texture, fibre-fibre joints etc.) and mechanical properties (elastic constants, yield strength, fracture energy). Network architecture is most effectively captured by computed X-ray microtomography and these data can be used in analytical and numerical models for property prediction.
Fibre network materials are attractive for usage in various types of actuator application, since they can exhibit controlled reversible shape changes, while potentially offering good combinations of strength, toughness and rate of thermal response. One particular type of actuation is currently being explored based on magnetic actuation, using ferromagnetic fibres. This effect is being explored for certain biomedical applications, including magnetically active layers on the surface of prosthetic implants, which deform elastically on application of a magnetic field, stimulating in-growth of bone tissue via the creation of mechanical strain on the cell network, and hence improving the bonding between prosthesis and bone. On-going work within the group involves systematic in vitro examination of whether bone tissue in-growth can be influenced by magneto-mechanical strain induction within a ferromagnetic fibre network. Surface topography and chemistry are postulated to be two major factors that influence the extent of osseointengration between an implant and the surrounding tissue. On-going work in the group is focused on understanding these effects.