North East finalist - Alex Starling

Alex graduated from the University of Leeds, UK, in 2018 with a first-class MEng/BEng in Chemical Engineering, specialising in Materials Sciences. Between his 3rd and 4th year of study, Alex gained an industrial placement at Guardian Industries UK, a commercial float glass producer. There, he was involved in developing XRF facilities for analysing and monitoring the quality of raw materials to help predict and maintain a stable glass chemistry. Following that, Alex was offered a project in partnership with Guardian Industries to look into the performance of commercially available self-cleaning glasses. The project involved understanding how the nanostructure of these thin coatings affect the overall performance and functionality of the products. Microscopy techniques such as SEM, TEM, EDX and XPS were used for his research. After completing his research, he was given a full-time role in the process engineering team at Guardian Industries and was awarded for his outstanding achievements by the University of Leeds.

Alex enjoys working with others to create long-lasting, innovative and sustainable solutions to problems. Outside of work, he enjoys mountain biking, DIY projects at home and walking his rescue husky Thor.

Self-cleaning glass, benchmarking and analysis

Self-cleaning glasses work by utilising a thin layer of photocatalytic material, commonly titanium dioxide, to break down organic matter into water-soluble components, which are then washed away by rain. Four methods for producing self-cleaning coatings were analysed in a comparative benchmark. The aim was to understand why certain self-cleaning glasses outperformed others in comparison; whether it be directly related to the surface features or whether it be more influenced by the structure and composition of the nanostructured layers themselves. To understand how the performance of each sample varied, a range of microscopic techniques were used to explore the fundamental macro- and microstructure of each sample and how these govern their overall properties and performance.

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