360° Tour of a Polymer Lab

This video takes you on a 360 ° tour of the Dove Group Research laboratories. To get the most of this video it is best to watch on a tablet or mobile phone.

The tour includes a look around their synthetic and analytical laboratories. Discussion and demonstration of polymerisation reaction to form a degradable elastomer.


How many people work in your lab?

28 members from 12 different countries form the Dove group, which includes postdocs, PhD students, and master students. Most of them carry out their work at the University of Birmingham, whereas others spend most of their time in the University of Warwick (our previous university), or even abroad. It is quite a young and dynamic group that is excited about research!

Click on the name of a researcher below to learn more about them;

Andrew Dove 

Maria Perez Madrigal

What is an elastomer and what do we use them for?

An elastomer is a combination of the words “elastic” + “polymer”. Specifically, it is a polymer that can return to its original shape and size after being stretched and/or squeezed. Even though the word “elastomer” may not be familiar, it can be used interchangeably with “rubber.” Although plastics are very important, sometimes we need a material that is softer and/or more flexible and elastomers are perfect for this. Rubber bands are a good example of an everyday elastomer as well as the sole of your shoes! However, the most common place to find elastomers is in tyres. Can you imagine driving on something that did not “flex” or “give” when you hit a bump or hole? That would be a very bumpy (and dangerous) ride!

What is a catalytic solution?

It is a solution that contains a catalyst, which is a compound that causes a chemical reaction to happen in a different way than it would without the catalyst. For instance, we tend to use catalysts to increase the reaction rate (how fast it happens), or to perform a reaction at a lower temperature. In fact, most polymers are made using catalyst. In this reaction that Connor is doing, the catalyst allows us to make our polymer in under 5 minutes. Without it, the reaction could take several days or longer!

Why is Connor working in a cupboard?

Connor works in a fume cupboard to reduce or eliminate exposure to volatile liquids, dusts, mists, or hazardous substances. In addition to this, anytime we work in the lab, we must wear PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), which includes lab coat, safety glasses, and gloves.

Why do you cut your samples into a dog bone shape?

Following ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) and ISO (International Organization of Standardization) standards, we cut our samples in a dog bone shape to ensure highest probability that the sample will fail due to maximum tensile loading. Cut in this way, the sample has a shoulder at each end and a gauge section in between. The shoulders are wider than the gauge section, which causes a stress concentration to occur in the middle when the sample is loaded with a tensile force. This stress concentration ensures a higher probability that the sample will rupture away from the ends. When the rupture of a sample occurs in the midsection it is attributed to the material reaching its maximum tensile strength, whereas if the sample ruptures at one of the ends or in the grip itself the failure may be attributed to improper loading or a pre-existing defect in the material.

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