Dr Pete Laity ORCID iD logo

Biography and previous work:

I obtained my BSc (in Chemistry) from the University of Bath in 1979, then spent the next 19 years working at Courtaulds Research Laboratories, in Coventry. Although that covered many aspects of polymeric materials characterisation and processing, my main work was as part of the team that developed the ‘amine oxide solvent method’ for producing ‘lyocell’ regenerated cellulose films and fibres. For further background information, personal viewpoints and historical snippets , see Tencel at Courtaulds: from Genesis to Exodus here.

During that time, I also obtained my BA (in Mathematics) by part-time study with the Open University.

I returned to full-time study at the University of Birmingham in 1998, working towards my PhD (Novel Structures in Cellulose Thin Films) with Jim Hay, in the School of Metallurgy and Materials. In addition to exploring the relationships between processing route, morphology of the regenerated cellulose and water transport properties, this work initiated my enthusiasm for instrumental characterisation methods – notably: infrared spectroscopy, differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), electron microscopy and X-ray scattering (SAXS and WAXS).

Following the completion of my PhD in 2001, I joined the University of Cambridge, as a PDRA with Ruth Cameron in the Cambridge Centre for Medical Materials, within the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy. Our work (over 9 years) covered several aspects of medical and pharmaceutical materials, including:

(1) Investigating the relationships between chemical composition, processing history, microphase separation, mechanical properties and biochemical stability of medical polyurethane copolymers, as part of a project to develop spinal disc implants, in collaboration with Ranier Technology Ltd.

(2) Studying the compaction behaviour of pharmaceutical materials and the subsequent disintegration behaviour of tablets, within the Pfizer Institute for Pharmaceutical Materials Science. I continued this work on powder compaction and tabletting, during three years at the University of Huddersfield, School of Applied Sciences.

My research over the past decade (at Birmingham, Cambridge and Huddersfield) has also provided further opportunities for me to indulge my enthusiasm for characterisation, using world-class ‘central’ facilities including the Synchrotron Radiation Source, at Daresbury (which closed in 2008), the Diamond Light Source in Oxfordshire (which superseded it) and the European Synchrotron, in Grenoble, France.

Current work

I joined the University of Sheffield, in January 2014, working with Chris Holland to investigate the polymer science underlying how natural silk proteins (fibroins from silkworms and spidroins from spiders) are coagulated under (very mild) physiological conditions into fibres with impressive mechanical properties.

Personal interests

When not doing science, I can often be found gardening or playing music.