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New horizons in modelling surface processes

Publication date: Mar 28, 2008 11:29:18 AM

Medical, environmental and chemical conundrums – including the mystery of how ice forms in the sky and goes on to create clouds – will be unravelled at a conference hosted by UCL (University College London) to mark the opening of UCL’s Materials Simulation Laboratory on Monday 31 March 2008. The four-day conference will explore the properties and manipulation of nanostructures such as nanosensors that could one day be used for small molecule drug screening. Talks and posters will also cover the chemistry of bioglass implants and a new polymer for heart bypass grafts and valves.

UCL scientists have been modelling ice nucleation in the hope of better understanding the mysterious molecular processes by which ice forms around dust particles in the atmosphere, and goes on to create clouds. Knowing how these particles trigger ice formation is crucial for climate change models. UCL’s Dr Xiaoliang Hu will present new data on kaolinite, a key ice nucleating agent in the atmosphere, while Dr Angelos Michaelides will chair a session on the properties of water and ice.

Previous attempts to make synthetic arteries for heart surgery have been hampered by the fact that the body perceives them as foreign and triggers an ‘injury’ response to start blood clotting in the implants. Now, a UCL team led by Professor Alexander Seifalian has created a new generation of nanocomposite materials – known as UCL-NanoTM – for use in heart surgery. These nanomaterials overcome previous problems such as the risk of thrombosis (blood clotting) and are being used to develop arterial bypass graft, stent and heart valves.

Professor Mike Gillan, Director of the UCL Materials Simulation Laboratory (MSL), says: “The MSL brings together 90 UCL researchers, making it the largest concentration of materials modelling experts in the UK. Research at our centre, funded with £19 million in grants, covers a wide range of materials research including clean energy production, those that could play a role in climate change, and materials for future computing devices and for healthcare.”

Professor David Price, UCL Vice-Provost for Research who will be giving the inaugural address, says: “Materials modelling plays a crucial role in enabling major advances in areas such as nanotechnology and energy efficiency. Our world-leading expertise in this field will be further strengthened by a new £3.9 million investment in research computing that we are undertaking.”

Notes for Editors

1. More information about the conference can be found at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/msl/msl/events/workshop.htm. The conference programme, including abstracts of the talks, can be obtained from the website or from Jenny Gimpel in the UCL Media Relations Office on tel: +44 (0)20 7679 9726, mobile: +44 (0)7747 565 056, out of hours +44 (0)7917 271 364, e-mail: j.gimpel@ucl.ac.uk.

2. Journalists who wish to register for the conference should contact Dr Emma Leighton on e.leighton@ucl.ac.uk, tel: +44 (0)20 7679 9726.

3. For more information on ice formation in the atmosphere, please contact Dr Angelos Michaelides on tel: +44 (0)20 7679 0647 or email: angelos.michaelides@ucl.ac.uk

4. For more information on UCL-NanoTM, please contact Professor Alexander Seifalian on tel: +44 (0)20 7830 2901, e-mail: a.seifalian@ucl.ac.uk

About UCL

Founded in 1826, UCL was the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to admit students regardless of race, class, religion or gender, and the first to provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine. In the government’s most recent Research Assessment Exercise, 59 UCL departments achieved top ratings of 5* and 5, indicating research quality of international excellence.

UCL is in the top ten world universities in the 2007 THES-QS World University Rankings, and the fourth-ranked UK university in the 2007 league table of the top 500 world universities produced by the Shanghai Jiao Tong University. UCL alumni include Marie Stopes, Jonathan Dimbleby, Lord Woolf, Alexander Graham Bell, and members of the band Coldplay.