Dr Martin Ansell FIMMM (Profile)

Fellows' Lounge
28 Mar 2011

Dr Martin Ansell, Reader in Materials at the University of Bath, became a Fellow of IOM3 in 2002.



He graduated in Materials Science from the Faculty of Applied Sciences at the University of Sussex. This exposed him to a range of engineering disciplines but he took to materials science immediately and chose it as his final-year specialisation. His final-year project was to measure and model ion-diffusion profiles in oxide glass using Hertzian indentation. The indentor was a titanium carbide ball from a biro refill clamped in an Instron test machine.

Inspired by glass science, Martin started an MPhil at Chelsea College, University of London, on conduction mechanisms in thick film resistors with Ministry of Defence sponsorship. Taking advantage of the acquisition of a scanning electron microscope and EDAX system, with punched card storage of data, he spent many happy hours examining the link between the microstructure of these resistors, based on narrow band conductive metal oxides in a glass matrix, and their DC conductivity. The MPhil was converted into a PhD in 1975.


Overview of career

Martin went to work for Standard Telecommunication Laboratories in Harlow, one of a group of ITT laboratories in Europe. He worked on low melting point glass formulations for direct encapsulation of semiconductor devices.

The urge to return to university life and more freedom to publish led him to accept a postdoctoral position at the University of Bath. The research, sponsored by NATO, concerned the structure-related properties of wood. Acoustic emission testing was a new branch of non-destructive evaluation at this time and Martin applied the technique to failure mechanisms in wood. Links were forged with the Building Research Establishment (BRE), and its advice inspired a lecture tour of timber research organisations in Canada and the USA.


Research into wood as an engineering material

Following his appointment as Lecturer in Materials at Bath in 1979, Martin built up a research portfolio based on postgraduate studentship and then research grants from research councils and Government departments. He became a Member of the former Institute of Materials.

The emerging interest in alternative energy and the use of laminated wood for wind turbine blade manufacture in the USA, based on boat building technology, resulted in a series of grants from the UK Government and the then Science Research Council on the fatigue of laminated wood. Fatigue properties were thoroughly characterised, and involved the generation of S-N curves, constant lifelines and analysis of the impact of complex loads on fatigue lives.

This undertaking led to research contracts with the BRE on the fatigue of wood panel products including chipboard, MDF and oriented strand board. Membership of the former Institute of Wood Science (IWSc, now the Wood Technology Society of IOM3) followed, and Martin became its President in 1994. He co-organised annual conferences in Bristol and Edinburgh, the first sponsored by the Canadian High Commission, who the following year invited Martin on a tour of Canadian forests. A helicopter trip over Vancouver Island, hovering above 100m tall Sitka spruce trees, was particularly memorable.

Martin's first publication on natural fibre composites (NFCs) appeared in the Journal of Materials Science in 1983. Since then he has co-published on NFCs with postgraduates from Tanzania, Malaysia, Mexico and Europe, coinciding with a strong interest in sustainable, low carbon engineering materials.

A British Council LINK programme was set up with the Universiti of Putra Malaysia on kenaf composites and several postgraduate programmes have followed from the exchange visits to Malaysia. The University of Bath, in conjunction with BRE, created the BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials, of which Martin is Deputy Director.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships with companies in the UK's southwest have relied on Martin's broad knowledge of engineering materials. He has lectured on sports materials at Bath, and in 2007 was invited to Beijing, China, to lecture on sports engineering as part of a British Council initiative acknowledging the award of the Olympic Games to China and the UK.


Involvement with IOM3

The Institute has been a constant source of information and inspiration for Martin's undergraduate teaching and research over the years. He sits on the WTS Board and is a member of the Editorial Board of International Forest Products Journal, the journal of the former IWSc which was relaunched under this new title.

His evening lectures to the Institute's local societies have provided younger scientists and engineers with opportunities to interact with the local materials community and to enter the Young Persons' National Lecture Competition. Martin says, ‘Those pursuing industrial or university careers should aspire to the grade of Fellowship because it is internationally recognised as a reflection of a successful career in materials science and engineering'. He adds, ‘A career in engineering materials has been a fascinating and rewarding journey'.

Martin's university profile can be accessed at http://people.bath.ac.uk/mssmpa/.