Awards in adhesion and adhesives

The De Bruyne Medal
The Wake Memorial Medal

The De Bruyne Medal

The De Bruyne Medal is awarded triennially by the Society of Adhesion and Adhesives at the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, Huntsman Advanced Materials and TWI (formerly The Welding Institute). The medal is sponsored by Huntsman Advanced Materials (formerly Ciba Speciality Chemicals (UK) Ltd) and is presented in recognition of the recipient's personal contribution to innovation in the field of adhesives and related technology and recognises novel technical achievements which are demonstrably viable.

The medal is named after Norman Adrian de Bruyne MA, PhD, FlnstP, FRAeS, FRS, who was a prolific inventor, an engineering entrepreneur and one of the earliest, and most influential, advocates of synthetic adhesives for use in demanding and novel engineering structures, especially in the construction of aircraft. He founded the Cambridge Aeroplane Construction Company in 1931, which became Aero Research Ltd in 1934, and eventually became Huntsman Advanced Materials. (See: Bishopp, J.A. 1997: 'The history of 'Redux' and the 'Redux' bonding process'. Int. J. Adhesion and Adhesives, 17, 287-301 and Kinloch, A.J. 2000: 'Norman Adrian de Bruyne (1904-1997)', Biog. Mems. Fell. R. Soc. Lond., 46, 125-143).

Previous recipients

2016    Dr Andreas Hartwig
2013    Dr Stephan Sprenger
2011    Mr John Bishopp
2008    Mr Barrie Hayes
2005    Dr Bill Lees
2002    Dr Michael Owen
1999    Dr Iain Webster
1996    Dr Stephanie Wellman

Norman Adrian de Bruyne (1904 - 1997)

Born in Punta Arenas, Chile on 8 November 1904, Norman de Bruyne was a man of outstanding achievements and in 1967 he was elected to Fellowship of the Royal Society. The citation reads:

‘Distinguished for his practical application of science to certain problems in aircraft construction, especially the use of plastic materials and adhesives…. ’

He was a prolific inventor, an engineering entrepreneur and one of the earliest and most influential advocates of synthetic adhesives for use in demanding and novel engineering structures, especially aircraft.

It was in October of 1923 that de Bruyne went up to Trinity College, Cambridge, to read Natural Sciences and in 1927 he took Part Two of the Natural Sciences Tripos and obtained a First. In September of 1927, de Bruyne continued at Cambridge with his PhD research, studying field emission, at the Cavendish Laboratories under the supervision of Lord Rutherford. In 1928 de Bruyne published his findings in the Proceedings of the Royal Society. He also wrote up his research as a thesis for the Trinity Fellowship and in September 1928 was duly elected a Prize Fellow of Trinity College. De Bruyne took his MA and PhD degrees in 1930. He continued to work at the Cavendish until 1931.

The turning point in de Bruyne’s life was initiated by a ride in a de Havilland Moth aircraft, at Fen Ditton just outside Cambridge. De Bruyne then learnt to fly and went solo after 12 hours of instruction. It was at this time that he changed from being a physicist to an ‘engineer-entrepreneur’ and he established the Cambridge Aeroplane Construction Company in 1931, which became Aero Research Ltd in 1934. In connection with this latter company he made many novel and major advances in the design and construction of aircraft structures. He designed a four-seater, low wing monoplane at a time when biplanes were de rigueur. He called this aeroplane the ‘Snark’ and it embodied the extensive structural use of stressed plywood made using the new durable and strength-enhancing phenol-formaldehyde resins. It flew for the first time in 1934 and gained an airworthiness certificate in 1935.

Amongst many other intriguing technical challenges, he successfully investigated the use of reinforced phenol-formaldehyde resins in the manufacture of variable pitch propellers for the de Havilland Aircraft Company. The attraction of this material was that, with a density of about a one half that of aluminium alloy, centrifugal forces at the root were correspondingly reduced.

Synthetic urea-formaldehyde systems were also developed and he named them ‘Aerolite’ adhesives. These latter adhesives replaced old-fashioned materials based on natural products which were subject to degradation and therefore unreliable. The new ‘Aerolite’ materials were approved for use in aircraft by the Air Ministry and subsequently used extensively in aircraft construction (‘Horsa’ gliders and the ‘Mosquito’ fighter-bomber for example) and in furniture construction. In the early 1940s, de Bruyne developed a ‘strip heating’ procedure that reduced cure times for ‘Aerolite’ adhesives from hours to minutes.

His work on propellers led to the development of the first reinforced composite material [‘Gordon Aerolite’: a flax reinforced phenol-formaldehyde resin matrix] which, in the early-1940s, was used in the construction of tailplanes for the Miles ‘Magister’ trainers and spars for the Bristol ‘Blenheim’ bombers. Analysing the bolted box designs for the tailplanes led de Bruyne to two conclusions:

Drawing on his work, where sandwich panels with light-weight cores, including balsa wood, were produced to give stiff but lightweight structural panels for wooden aircraft, he realised that [aluminium] honeycomb material would be very efficient in stiffening these components without appreciable weight gain. He patented this idea in 1938 but it wasn’t until the late 1940s/early 1950s that honeycomb was first used on a large scale; almost simultaneously in the UK and the United States.

Secondly, de Bruyne concluded that there was a real need for an adhesive to bond Gordon Aerolite panels together, to replace the weighty and cumbersome bolts. He and a colleague set about the problem and achieved success within about six months through the development of an adhesive based on a phenol-formaldehyde resole resin coated with a polyvinyl formal powder. By February 1942, aluminium alloy lap joints were prepared with breaking stresses of over 2000 p.s.i. (~ 13.8 MPa). This was the first modern, synthetic structural adhesive for metals and was named ‘Redux’ standing for Research at Duxford. It was first used to bond thousands of ‘Cromwell’ and ‘Churchill’ tank clutch plates and then in the ‘Sea Hornet’, ‘Dove’ and in its film format, the ‘Comet’ It was also used in the construction of Donald Campbell’s ‘Bluebird’. ‘Redux’ is still used widely today.

Download a nomination form for the 2011 award from the link in the left hand sidebar.

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The Wake Memorial Medal

The prestigious Wake Memorial Medal is awarded triennially to a worker in the field of either adhesion or adhesives. The award of this medal is made in recognition of outstanding contributions made by an individual over a substantial period and is solely conferred by the management board of the SAA - to whom any recommendations should be made in writing through the current Secretary or Chairman. It is open to all, including those working in academia, industry and research institutes.

Previous recipients

2016    Professor Robert Adams
2013    Professor David Dillard
2011    Professor Costantino Creton
2008    Professor Wulff Possart
2005    Professor Kevin Kendall
2002    Professor Tony Kinloch
1999    Professor Keith Allen
1996    Professor Alan Gent
1993    Professor Walter Brockmann
1990    Dr. Lou Sharpe

William Charles ‘Bill’ Wake (1916-1989)

Bill Wake was born in South London in 1916 of a very modest background; and grew up in a period of severe recession and unemployment. He was educated at the Haberdashers’ Aske’s School and left in 1933; just at the depths of the depression. He was fortunate to secure a post in the Ballistics Division at Woolwich Arsenal and began part-time studies at the Sir John Cass Institute. Early in 1939 he succumbed to pulmonary tuberculosis, which necessitated a spell in a sanatorium. Fortunately he made good progress and at the outbreak of war he was sent home, more or less cured. However he was left with permanently impaired breathing, which made him susceptible to infections, which prevented him from any energetic physical activity; indeed this overshadowed his every action and dictated much of his life style for the next half century.

In 1940, in spite of the set-backs, he gained a degree in chemistry and moved to Cambridge where the Division of which he was a part had been evacuated. In that same year he was married to Lillian who was his constant companion and support for almost fifty years.

In 1943 he left the Civil Service and joined the Research Association of British Rubber Manufacturers working at its laboratories in Croydon. To begin with, his work was essentially concerned with the physical chemistry of natural rubber and particularly its analysis. This led to his first book “Analysis of rubber and rubber-like polymers” (1958). In 1954 he moved with the Research Association to Shawbury, a small village near Shrewsbury.

The scope of its work expanded and this was reflected in a change of title to the Rubber and Plastics Research Association. He remained steadily progressing in both stature and status, becoming Assistant Director (Research) in 1962.

By 1955 his work began to include adhesion, initially involving rubber but then more generally. By 1960 all his published work was in this field and he began to be recognised as the primary authority on it, at least in this country. He was awarded the Colwyn Medal of the then Institution of the Rubber Industry in 1965, and gained a DSc from the University of London in 1968. Eventually he produced two significant books, “Adhesion and the formulation of adhesives” (1976) and, with R.D. Adams, “Structural adhesive joints in engineering” (1984).

In 1969 he took early retirement from RAPRA and began the second phase of his major scientific life; both as a private consultant and as a Visiting Professor at City University, London. In this later role he very quickly became highly regarded and respected. He brought a wide range of contacts throughout the adhesives industry and academia both in this country and abroad. His international distinction as, well as his contribution directly to the University, were recognised in 1981 when he was awarded the degree of DSc Honoris Causa and then in 1984 the Adhesives and Sealants Council (of USA) honoured him with its Award.

In parallel with his interest and involvement in the science in which he was employed, he developed another, quite different intellectual expertise. From his school days he had had some interest in the history and philosophy of science, and he pursued this with characteristic enthusiasm and rigor. So that in 1946 he achieved the award of an MSc degree. In the course of his work he became particularly interested in ancient Greek science and medicine and the original documents which described and discussed them. This led him on to exploring various techniques for distinguishing authorships and eventually to establishing that sentence length gives significant statistical correlations. To do this he had first of all to teach himself Greek and then to collect the data by counting and checking the texts – no small task in the period before computers! This all led to the award of a Ph.D. in 1951, and a continuing interest although diminishing involvement in this field.

All this of his scientific eminence; it says nothing of his skill as a water colourist, his dry humour, his generous hospitality or his enormous quiet generosity in a variety of directions.

The creation of a “Wake Award” was but small recognition of a gifted scientist of whom one can do no better than repeat the quotation from Hamlet which was used at his funeral:

“He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again.”

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