It is vital to search for alternative energy sources that are renewable, and to find new ways of using energy more efficiently. Any such new technology will most likely rely on new materials with outstanding functional properties.
To develop cheaper and higher performance alternatives to silicon, new compounds such as doped binary oxides are fabricated using scalable processing focusing on bandgap engineering, defect engineering, and carrier concentration and mobility tuning to optimise properties.
To develop near room-temperature solid electrolytes for batteries, fuel cells and sensors, a new nanostructuring thin film approach has been pioneered with remarkable enhancement in ionic conductivity.
Harvesting energy from vibrations and waste heat is a viable power solution for wireless sensors, portable, flexible and wearable electronics and biomedical implants. High-performance and durable polymer-based nanomaterials are being developed with the aim of pioneering commercially viable “nanogenerator” designs.
Prof. Driscoll has pioneered novel precision nanoengineering methods to develop highperformance, low-cost copper oxide superconductors, taken up by industries worldwide. Separately, Prof. Glowacki has led the development of practical superconducting wires and tapes.
A new metal–oxide photocatalyst composite, capable of absorbing both UV and visible light with very fast reaction rates, has been developed for disinfecting water and for destroying air pollutants. A spin-out company (CamSES Ltd) has been set up to exploit the findings, with trials being conducted with local communities in Tanzania.
Magnetocaloric, electrocaloric and mechanocaloric effects are reversible thermal changes that occur in magnetically, electrically and mechanically responsive materials due to changes in magnetic field, electric field and stress field. These effects could be exploited for energy-efficient cooling applications.
The behaviour of the ionomer-catalyst support interface is a key limiting factor in performance and lifetime of fuel cells. Computational modelling offers key insights into understanding these properties.
High surface area carbonaceous and metal-organic framework sorbents nano-decorated with metal promoters are being investigated for efficient near room-temperature hydrogen storage applications.
Accident-tolerant fuel cladding materials, based on ternary carbides, are being investigated for use in nuclear reactors, relating the electronic structure of the ternary carbide to the ease of plastic flow, required for making reliable coatings.
Gallium nitride LEDs have the potential to reduce global electricity usage, but this requires development of low-cost, high-performance devices. Research towards this goal includes detailed materials growth and characterization to understand and engineer the nanoscale structure of these devices.
Materials for efficient turbines (Clegg)
NiAl-based alloys are being developed for improved efficiency in power generation by gas turbines. The degradation processes in polycrystalline cubic boron nitride are being studied to enable sustainable, dry precision metal cutting.
Metallic Glasses (Greer)
Innovative processing techniques are being developed that may permit optimization of soft-magnetic properties of metallic glasses without the embrittlement brought about by conventional annealing treatments. These materials could lead to reduced energy loss in power transmission and in devices.
Spectral converters can be used to capture and convert high and low energy solar photons into wavelengths that are more effectively used by solar cells. Organic-inorganic polymer hybrid materials are being designed to improve the efficiency of spectral conversion processes in the solid-state.
Interface modifying materials are used to improve charge extraction and contact between the active layer and the electrodes in organic solar cells. We use the bottom-up self-assembly of soft materials (e.g. polyelectrolytes, surfactants) to investigate structure-property relationships in nanostructured interfacial layers to inform the design of next generation organic solar cells. The figure shows AFM images for poly(thiophene) layers co-assembled with surfactants to obtain different morphologies.