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João Pedro dos Santos Laranjeira is originally from Lisbon, Portugal. He joined Oxford Brookes University in September 2015 and his thesis title is ‘Novel fatigue test to evaluate the joining requirements for bonding light‑weight next generation engineering materials with a focus on sustainable mass production’.
I was aware of Oxford Brookes University, and in particular about this research project in a partnership with 3M UK, through some networking channels.
Two years ago, I was looking for a challenging research project for my PhD, based on collaboration between academia and industry. I think both fields have different critical thinking and approaches when it comes to R&D, and to problem solving, and consequently their partnership contributes to innovative strategies and outcomes. Aside from this, I also wanted to step out of Portugal using my intercultural and communication skills by studying abroad. I believe when you are young and studying, it is important to experience being outside of your comfort zone and to challenge yourself. In this way, you will improve your self‑knowledge and awareness as a person. Moreover, as we live in a world of change, learning how to be creative is becoming more and more important.
That said, the opportunity to be involved in a research project between Oxford Brookes University and 3M UK was a once‑in‑a‑lifetime opportunity. Being part of such a prestigious and recognised university with such a strong connection with industry, and 3M as one of the most innovative companies in the world, made me feel a truly fortunate student.
My academic background is in Civil Engineering and, after finishing my master’s degree, I was involved in research projects where the experimental study of the material properties was the main focus in a broad range of maintenance and repair of building and civil infrastructure scenarios.
Oxford Brookes University provides a huge range of possibilities in terms of facilities, funding, conferences and social activities, which made it very easy for me to settle into the research environment. Above all, I feel that the support of my supervisors and colleagues has been essential for my well‑being. Having the right supervisors for the research project has been crucial to the progress of the research, giving feedback to help make the right decisions. Moreover, they have always been able to motivate me, particularly when progress appears slow, which can happen when you are involved in a three year long research project. Likewise my office colleagues have been an important source of social support throughout my research project, as my work is mainly independent.
As a result of environmental drivers, global manufactures and suppliers of materials and engineering components, across all industry sectors, are being challenged to reduce structural weight, materials use, and manufacturing costs, while ensuring quality and safety requirements. In the pursuit of light‑weight components, it has been demonstrated that these challenges can be met by using multi-material combinations rather than single material solutions, which are invariably joined with adhesive bonding.
The optimisation of bonded joints is a very multi-disciplinary undertaking, which requires the evaluation of material properties for dissimilar substrates and the adhesive subject to the service conditions, namely temperature range, moisture, and mechanical loading, particularly dynamic load cycles (i.e. fatigue). Likewise, the surface treatment applied to substrates, the adhesive bondline thickness, presence of interfacial defects, curing conditions, and even joint design are all critical aspects related to the complex process of selecting an appropriate adhesive. In addition to this, there are numerous test methodologies available to characterise the adhesive bonded joints behaviour, which increases the complexity of performing an efficient assessment of the critical factors under service conditions.
As a global market leader in adhesive bonding innovations, 3M UK aims to reinforce their presence in strategic sectors such as transportation, defence, energy and civil engineering, as well as overtaking new markets, using innovative 3M adhesives. However, the lack of a simple and easy means by which to quickly gather qualitative, and possibly quantitative performance, data on multi‑material bonded joints subject to realistic service conditions is limiting the widespread use and innovation of 3M adhesive products in strategic sectors.
In my research project, a simple and quick adhesive screening test methodology is proposed to evaluate either bulk (i.e. homogeneous material) or joint properties subjected to pre‑defined dynamic loadings and environmental conditions in a single test. This methodology aims to reduce the complexity of adhesive selection process and, consequently, simplify customer’s decisions when selecting 3M adhesives against competitor products.
As a research student, I have the freedom to question, search and come up with novel solutions around a subject that I am interested in. The opportunity to be involved in pioneering research that has the possibility to develop new practices within a company such as 3M is what really attracted me to this research. During my time on this project I have come to understand that persistence, discipline, and critical thinking are essential skills that every research student needs to undertake a successful project.
At the moment I want to continue doing my PhD and take the most from the experience. After completing my research project, I would like to continue working in research, whether it is in academia or industry.