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The draft programme of speakers for the 2018 ABC Forum is available below


Abstracts for the Gordon Seminars

From Complex Crystals to Better Materials

Professor Sandra Korte-Kerzel, RWTH Aachen University

The current challenges in materials design require development of new alloy concepts to allow operation under harsher conditions, such as high stresses and extreme temperatures. In the light of this motivation and the advent of large crystal databases, it would appear obvious to search for new binary or ternary crystals, which can expand our range of available materials. However, essential information is still missing, in particular we have not yet found a way to reliably predict how a material deforms at the crystal level if its structure is more complex than that of the pure metals and their solid solutions. Even in existing materials, precipitates of complex crystals are often treated with major simplifications as their deformation mechanisms and the associated critical stresses are not yet known. However, these might now be elucidated using recent nanomechanical testing methods in conjunction with electron microscopy to advance our insights in the deformation of different materials, such as hard coatings, topologically close packed precipitates in superalloys or a reinforcing skeleton in cast magnesium.

Little Solutions to Big Problems

Dr Camille Petit, Department of Chemical Engineering, Imperial College

Access to clean water along with sustainable energy and the protection of the environment are probably the greatest challenges of our society but also a formidable opportunity to reshape our technology landscape. To this end, researchers must propose transformative approaches to energy production and environmental remediation. In that endeavour, multifunctional nanomaterials have a key role to play. Indeed, relying on the increasing complexity and sophistication of nanomaterials, we are now able to design materials that can perform multiple functions (hence multifunctional materials) as a way to integrate multiple processes (e.g. carbon capture and conversion).

This talk will provide an overview of our research – past and current – in that direction. I will discuss selected examples of our work from the design of multifunctional materials (e.g.metal-organic frameworks, nitrides) to their applications in areas such as carbon management or air/water treatment. Our approach encompasses not only materials synthesis but also characterisation and testing, thereby enabling us to have a global perspective on materials structure-property relationships and to envision avenues for the design of next-generation materials in key sustainability focus areas. I will also discuss how materials development can be accelerated through a multi-scale approach combining molecular simulation, lab-scale materials testing and process system modelling.

Spectral Conversion Materials to Harvest Sunlight in the Urban Landscape

Dr Rachel C. Evans, Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy

Solar power is the world’s fastest-growing energy source. The sun rush has driven technological advances and forced competitive manufacturing, leading to more efficient solar cells at significantly reduced costs. Central to the argument for solar technologies is the potential to tap in to an essentially infinite reserve - more energy from the sun hits the Earth’s surface in an hour than the global population uses in an entire year! However, sunlight arrives as a broad distribution of photons with different energies, and current solar cells are unable to harvest all of these photons efficiently. This restricts the maximum achievable performance of any solar device. 

To tackle this challenge, luminescent spectral converters have emerged as a rational strategy to harvest otherwise wasted solar photons, providing a way to optimise the spectral response of any solar cell. Spectral converters can be integrated directly with finished solar cells, which avoids the need for modifications to the device physics. Furthermore, the colour tunability of spectral converters, combined with their ability to enhance the response of solar cells to diffuse light have been regarded as effective drivers for a truly sustainable transition towards wide-scale deployment of solar harvesting architecture in the urban landscape. 

This talk will focus on our recent work to develop photoluminescent spectral conversion materials which enable the collection, conversion and concentration of sunlight for subsequent use by solar cells. The use of materials engineering to enable the bottom-up design of spectral converters with tuneable optical properties will be established and future perspectives for the advancement of this field will be discussed.

Commercialising Materials-based Technology in the UK ― Lessons Learnt

Michael Le Goff, CEO, Plessey

Following the acquisition of CamGaN in February 2012 Plessey has invested nearly £100m in commercialising the base GaN growth technology at its manufacturing facility in Plymouth, England. During this time Plessey’s management has experienced an entire market cycle from early stage mass adaption of solid state lighting (GaN based LEDs) through to a mature global scale manufacturing. It is rare that a UK based technology manufacturer survives through the entire cycle and lives to tell the tale. Mr. LeGoff will be providing background to the massive technological and commercial advantages of  GaN on silicon and yet how difficult and critical it is for tech companies prepare for scale production. Mr. LeGoff’s story will also make recommendations for how other “hard tech” and tech spin-outs need to position themselves to take advantage of the market cycles and their assciated investment cycles and provide insights into the many pitfalls to try to avoid.

Supertall Timber: impossibly high wooden skyscrapers

Dr Michael H. Ramage, Centre for Natural Material Innovation, Department of Architecture, Cambridge University

Timber has exceptional properties for building, many of which have been overlooked in the past century.  New research on engineered timber offers the possibility of wooden skyscrapers, the first generation of which are being realized in cities as diverse as London, Melbourne, Bergen, and Vancouver. Through a combination of theoretical design and physical testing, our research demonstrates the viability of timber buildings at much greater heights than has previously been possible. By pushing the limits of theoretical designs into the realms of the supertall, and sometimes beyond that which is feasible using current materials and construction technologies, our research also sets out the requirements for the next generation of engineered plant-based materials.  Research, design and construction of contemporary large-scale timber buildings furthers the architectural and structural engineering knowledge necessary to make tall timber buildings a reality. Natural materials in taller and larger buildings substitute for steel and concrete, reducing the carbon emissions associated with them.