Oral history of British science
Moreton, Roger (Part 5 of 8). An Oral History of British Science.
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Interviewee's home, Fleet
Moreton, Roger, 1935- (speaker, male)
Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)
Part 5: Roger Moreton [RM] describes Carbon Fibre [1:50] Description of methods for improving bond between Carbon Fibre and resin through oxidation and sodium hydrochloride methods to create stronger materials. [05:00] Comments on expected applications of Carbon Fibre: Courtold's staff using Carbon Fibre to support runner beans; Leslie Phillips use of Carbon Fibre in a kayak; current use of Carbon Fibre fabrics; golf clubs. [09:20] Remarks on disadvantages of Carbon Fibre: cost, leading to search for cheaper precursor materials such as rayon or pitch; slow reaction to create starting fibres leading to potential for holes in Carbon Fibre; [12:00] not anticipating problem of fibres sheering at first. [13:25] Remarks on Bill Watt [BW] wanting to understand underlying theory of Pyrolysis of Carbon Fibre, but being distracted by other work. [15:15] Description of pyrolysis process: turbostratic carbon; oxidation pretreatment; ladder polymers. [19:50] Remarks on challenges of getting Carbon Fibre to work: ascertaining properties; scaling up of process, Leslie Phillips need for large quantities, involvement of Harwell, use of ex-German Tammann furnace; finding ways to increase breaking strain; problem of rain erosion; RM construction of spinning apparatus to make fibres, Courtaulds' secrecy of their fibre making processes; relation of strong precursor fibre to strong Carbon Fibre; [26:00] impurities leading to strength problems; Derrick Thorn at Rolls Royce initial work in identifying flaws in starting materials; Sodium thiocyanate causing rust in Meccano apparatus; MF creation of equipment in clean room to spin clean fibres; filtering of materials to remove inclusions; testing properties of clean and dirty Carbon Fibre, relationship of strength and gauge length; [33:30] critical length of fibres; predictions of resin strength, empirically explored by RM; tedium of single fibre tests, comparative ease of tests of bundles of fibres; [39:05] RM stress tests on bundles of fibres; reduction of surface flaws by oxidation or coating of fibre surfaces. [43:20] Remarks on culmination of work: cross linking of ladder polymers, co-polymers; RM spinning copolymers into Carbon Fibre for testing; retirement of Bill Watt; RM work on fibre spinning leading to a PhD with University of Surrey, supervised by differently opined Bill Watt and John Bailey; retirement of Bill Watt to University of Surrey. [50:20] Remarks on RM PhD on relationship between polymer starting fibre and resultant Carbon Fibre: inclusions, co-polymers. Description of Griffith's criterion for brittle fracture, application to flaws in fibres. Remarks on: Sharp and Reynolds work at Harwell on strength and misaligned fibres. [58:40] Remarks on fitting PhD around RAE work: RAE links with Surrey, Southampton, Reading and Brunel Universities; PhD's on topics of mutual interest to RAE and university; writing up PhD in own time; limited career benefits of PhD; reasons RM did PhD; meetings at university. [1:04:00] Description of fibre spinning apparatus and it's operation, limitations compared to Courtaulds' manufacture, frustrations of work, [1:09:40] opposition of Courtaulds to RM building it.
Life story interview with materials scientist Roger Moreton.