Research

Our research is multidisciplinary and covers a wide range of areas. Members work on cross-cutting themes, addressing the “grand challenges” in energy, healthcare, information technology, sustainable technology and more generally, technologies associated with “quality of life”.

Research spotlight

Professor Ravi Silva

Professor Ravi Silva was interviewed by video blogger Charbax, where he talked about what we are doing here at the University within energy and nanotechnology.

Research areas

Our research is conducted in close collaboration with colleagues in other divisions within the University and in industry.

ATI Research Laureate

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The ATI recognises the most significant contributions to its activities by its staff and students on an annual basis by awarding ATI Research Laureates each year. There is a maximum number of awards, which will be considered by the Management Committee, and presented to the Director who will make the final decision. The process is to reward excellence and outstanding contributions by individuals, particularly in leading activities and enabling excellence that is evidenced quantifiably. The same ‘activity’ may not be reconsidered in the following year(s), should it have won an award in any previous year. The decision of the award committee is final. 

A Laurette can get an award for two years running and then will be acknowledged in the following year, before qualifying once more. The scheme set up by the management committee is to encourage excellence, wherever it is found.

2020 laureate winners

Winners and contribution highlights over the last year.

Dr Jose Anguita

We have developed a technology platform that allows the deposition of property-enhancing coatings on engineering-relevant substrates at room-temperature. In particular, on carbon-fibre reinforced composite materials used in spacecraft. Examples of property enhancement include improving the dimensional stability of critical-dimension components (such as those used for optical structures in space), emissivity coatings for controlling the thermal properties of satellites, and improving composite toughness.

Together, these improvements eliminate the need for various other satellite components, reducing weight and extending spacecraft durability and capability.

The technology is being up-scaled at Airbus to be deployed onto next-generation Sentinel spacecraft for Earth observation and also on up-coming space telescopes for deep-space exploration. We have used a low substrate-temperature growth method to grow a sparse-density carbon-nanotube forest (CNF) on heat-sensitive indium-tin-oxide (ITO) and fluorine-doped tin oxide (FTO) for use a charge-collectors in Perovskite solar cells. Despite the strong optical absorption and high growth temperature that is normally associated to CNF’s, our novel approach has allowed for low-temperature growth, leading to spar-density forests that allow significant light transmission, suitably apt for solar-cells. These have achieved efficiencies up to 16 per cent.

Dr Melanie Bailey

Dr Bailey’s team have been working on an EPSRC funded fellowship, to deliver molecular imaging alongside elemental imaging that is traditionally provided alongside ion beam analysis. We are currently working with collaborators at GSK, Public Health England, NPL and Rutgers University New Jersey to demonstrate early applications.  We recently were successful in obtaining an EPSRC grant (£1.2M) for high resolution ion beam analysis, which will give an added dimension to the elemental imaging. 

During the COVID pandemic, our mass spectrometry, measurement and clinical skills were put to work, when we repurposed our lab and team to collect samples for the COVID-19 Mass Spectrometry Coalition.  We have collected 100 patient samples which are biobanked at Surrey, been awarded £2M UKRI funded and published a letter in the Lancet.  Our early results are showing changes to sebum upon COVID infection, which may be used clinically for diagnosis or treatment.

Bhaskar Dudem

Dr Dudem’s research interest is mainly focused on harnessing or sensing the various mechanical agitations available in the surrounding environments, which are usually unattended. In this regard, he developed the wearable, flexible, cost-effective, robust, biodegradable, and humidity-resistant triboelectric nanogenerators (TENGs), which can be paired with AI systems to recognize the various functionalities of distinct human body parts.

Protein molecules are the building blocks of life and a knowledge of their role is crucial to understanding disease and developing new drugs.  About one third of all proteins contain small numbers of metal atoms which are essential to their function, and a long-standing problem in proteomics is identifying and quantifying these.  Currently available methods lack specificity or accuracy and are too slow for routine screening of large numbers of samples. 

Building on techniques of Ion Beam Analysis (Proton Induced X-ray Emission and Rutherford backscattering using a microfocused MeV proton beam), I and a colleague In the Biochemistry Department in Oxford have developed a high throughput method for precisely identifying and quantifying the metals in up to 100 protein samples in an unattended overnight run.  

Two preliminary surveys of randomly selected known samples have shown that up to 50% of the metalloprotein entries in the Protein Data Bank (PDB, https://www.rcsb.org) could have incorrect metal assignments.    

The implications of this are huge.  Millions of protein structures are downloaded from the PDB each day and used to support fundamental biological and pharmaceutical research. Hundreds of thousands of these may contain incorrect metals, which could invalidate much of this work. 

More details are available in this University of Surrey press release: https://www.surrey.ac.uk/news/new-groundbreaking-method-could-improve-accuracy-data-used-produce-lifesaving-drugs

Dr Imalka Jaywardena

Hybrid organic-inorganic semiconductors form the basis for next generation optoelectronic devices for energy harvesting, light emission and sensing activities.

Recent work published in ACS Nano (2019, 13, 6, 6973–6981) highlight the potential for these material for X-ray imaging applications while our work on approaching theoretical limits for low bandgap solar cells (Journal of Materials Chemistry A, 2020, 8, 693-705) and our review on Perovksite tandem solar cells (Journal of Materials Chemistry C, 2020,8, 10641-10675) highlights the promise of our approach for such systems for a future based on renewable energy technologies.

Dr Nguyen Le

Dr Le and co authors' recent works pave the way for the highly efficient third harmonic generation of THz laser by utilising the strong nonlinear interaction between light and dopant atoms (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41377-019-0174-6), and demonstrate that it is possible  to realise strongly correlated topological insulators with nano-fabricated lattices of dopant arrays in silicon (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41534-020-0253-9). 

Dr Sporea

Consolidating collaboration in the UK and abroad, Dr Sporea has been focusing on developing new device structures for large area and printed electronics. A major hurdle in the path of acceptance of new technology in industry is the repeatability of performance and device maufacturability.

In this study, the research showed that controlling contact properties at the nanoscale we are able to significantly increase the robustness of IGZO transistors for analog applications, in an effort spanning advanced fabrication and simulation.

Jing Zhang

Jing Zhang's research target is to achieve high-performance, long-term stable, and mechanical robust flexible perovskite solar cells (f-PSCs)at a lower cost. To reach this target, carbon nanotubes (CNTs) were integrated with f-PSCs. After spending many efforts within last year, the efficiency of CNT-based f-PCSs has been upraised to ~16% with excellent environmental stability. (This research work is now under drafting).

Moreover, a review paper, which systematically analysed and summarised the breakthroughs of flexible perovskite solar cells that were made in the last 5 years, was published on Materials Today on May 2020. 

Dr Zhang

Perovskite solar cells are at the forefront of next-generation photovoltaic technologies.

Our recent work on highly efficient inverted perovskite solar cells through device structure engineering (Advanced Materials Interfaces 2020, 2001121) and interface modification (Nano Energy 2020, 78, 105249), as well as the recent review articles on flexible (Materials Today 2020, (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mattod.2020.05.002) and tandem solar cells (Chemical Reviews 2020, 120, 9835-9950) showcase this exciting research field and future applications, which are expected to accelerate the commercialization of this low-cost and high-efficiency photovoltaic product as a major competitor to the traditional crystalline silicon solar cells in the next few years.

Dr Zhao

Over the last year, Dr Yunlong Zhao awarded the New Investigator Award from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to develop a new lithium-ion battery technology that is capable of capturing CO2 emissions.

Dr Zhao also produced the ultra-small nanowire field-effect transistor probes for intracellular recording, which was published on Nature Nanotechnology (DOI: 10.1038/s41565-019-0478-y). This achievement is considered as one of the leap forward in high-resolution human-machine interfaces.

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