The world around us is full of modern technology designed to make our lives safer, more comfortable and more efficient.
Such technology is made possible by materials and devices that are able to interact with their surrounding environment either by sensing or acting upon it.
Examples of such devices include:
- Motion detectors
- Fuel injectors
- Engine sensors
- Medical diagnostic tools
These interactive devices contain functional materials that can pose health hazards, are obtained from parts of the world where supply cannot be guaranteed or are relatively scarce.
If access to these functional materials is restricted, many of these advances will no longer be available resulting in a reduction in living standards and decreased UK economic growth. There already exist a number of replacement materials that can provide the same functions without the same levels of concerns around safety, security of supply and sustainability. However, these replacement materials need to be manufactured using different processes compared to existing materials.
This project explores new manufacturing technologies that could be used to create interactive devices that contain less harmful and sustainable materials with a secure supply.
This EPSRC-funded project will focus on two types of material - thermoelectric and piezoelectric - where the replacement materials share a set of common challenges:
- They need to be processed at elevated temperatures
- They contain elements that evaporate at high temperatures (making high temperature processing and processing of small elements difficult)
- They are mechanically fragile making it difficult to shape the materials by cutting, grinding or polishing
- They are chemically stable making it difficult to shape them by etching
- Many are air and moisture sensitive
The proposed research will address these challenges through research streams that engage proactively with industry.
Functional NanoMaterials group
Their research has a particular focus on micro-scale processing, materials integration and manufacture to allow the creation of unique 3D micro-and nano-scale structures.