Department of Materials News 2015

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QuEEN transistor

21st December 2015

Programme Grant: Quantum Effects in Electronic Nanodevices

EPSRC has awarded a Programme Grant for Quantum Effects in Electronic Nanodevices (QuEEN) to Andrew Briggs, Lapo Bogani, and Jan Mol, with Harry Anderson FRS in the Department of Chemistry and Colin Lambert at Lancaster University. The programme will be for six years, starting in January 2016.

Up to six postdoctoral appointments are available. Details are at A separate application must be made for each post. The closing date for all the posts is noon on Wednesday 6 January 2016.

Figure illustrates a molecular transistor: a Functionalised porphyrin molecule; b single-molecule device; c simulation of molecular orbitals; d differential conductance dI/dVg (logarithmic scale) as a function of bias voltage and gate voltage for a single porphyrin molecule. The Coulomb diamonds result from changes of a single electron in the charge state of the molecule. Lines parallel to the diamond edges are due to excited state transitions. Although this device was measured at 20 mK, the range of bias voltage indicates suitability for room temperature operation, which we have separately confirmed.

Electronic devices, when shrunk to the molecular scale, display prominent quantum effects. Within the QuEEN programme we shall develop the scientific understanding and technological know-how needed to exploit these quantum effects for reduced-energy computing, molecular recognition, universal memory and thermoelectric recovery of energy. Our research will concentrate on the underpinning science of stable and reproducible devices, consisting of single molecules connected to graphene electrodes, with the potential for scalable production. We aim to harness quantum interference in these devices by pursuing five complementary research challenges:

  1. How can quantum interference in a molecule be controlled by an electrostatic gate?
  2. Can spintronic effects provide superior molecular devices?
  3. Can quantum interference be used to achieve high thermoelectric effects?
  4. What are the performance limits for a single-molecule transistor?
  5. Can we make single molecule devices that work in ambient conditions?

The QuEEN programme combines chemical synthesis, nanofabrication, measurement, and theory, and integrates these different areas of expertise. QuEEN has a distinguished international Board and a range of industrial partners from local enterprises to established global firms.

UPROSA product

2nd December 2015

Entreprenurial designs

Dominique Piche, a DPhil student working on Nanomaterials, has long had entreprenurial interests. Dominique is the co-founder and creative director of UPROSA a brand that aims to bring science into the consumer market with a range of fashion & tech accessories created with real scientific imagery. UPROSA's mission is to communicate scientific research with striking, visual products, while supporting scientific researchers by donating 15% of the profits back to the scientist who created the design.

Counting dendrites

20th November 2015

Future Liquid Metal Engineering

The department is a partner in a new Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council funded £10 million manufacturing research Hub announced by Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson. The EPSRC Manufacturing Hub in Future Liquid Metal Engineering is led by Brunel University with major research activities at Oxford, Leeds, Manchester and Imperial College London, and involves a large number of industrial partners who will invest a further £45 million over the next 7 years.

The UK metal casting industry adds £2.6bn/yr to the UK economy, employs 30,000 people, produces 1.14 million tons of metal castings per year and underpins the competitive position of every sector of UK manufacturing. However, the industry faces severe challenges, including increasing energy and materials costs, tightening environmental regulations and a short supply of skilled people. The Future Liquid Metal Engineering Hub will address these challenges. The work at Oxford involves Professor Patrick Grant’s group and will build on work developing new approaches to X-ray imaging of solidification, including machine-learning techniques for automated image analysis. These techniques will be used to understand how impurities in liquid metals control microstructural evolution and how solidification conditions can be manipulated, for example by a pulsed magnetic field, to improve the tolerance of processes to impurities and so enable the increased re-circulation of metals in the manufacturing economy.

17th November 2015

BIS visit to Begbroke and to Williams F1

A delegation from the Department of Business Innovation and Skills visited Begbroke to see how graphene researchers are working with UK companies. They spent the morning visiting Professor Grobert's Nanomaterials by Design research group at Begbroke and hearing about the challenges faced in commerialising research outputs. Then in the afternoon moved on to Williams Advanced Engineering in Grove for a workshop tour before continuing discussions about how government policy could help to remove barriers to industrial take-up.

Andrew Culley, Senior Policy Advisor for the BIS Innovation Directorate, said, "The company case studies provided both at Begbroke and Williams were helpful in providing practical illustrations of the great commercial potential of nano-materials and graphene. Whereas discussions about the difficulties of commercialising at scale within the UK gave us a useful over-view of this aspect of the graphene story".

David Collins award

12th November 2015

David Collins awarded Infineum-Diamond Prize

During the Illuminating Challenges in Automotive Research Conference at the Diamond Light Source (4th-5th of Nov) David Collins was presented with the Diamond-Infineum Early Career Researcher Prize for his pioneering work on in-situ biaxial deformation of automotive materials.  David designed a neat mechanism for biaxial deformation and used it to explore ductility improvements generated by strain path changes using synchrotron diffraction at Diamond’s I12 JEEP beamline.  His work has been in collaboration with BMW-MINI and is seeking to develop novel manufacturing processes that could deliver huge manufacturing benefits to the automotive industry. 


9th November 2015

New Materials Spin-out Launched

New spin-out company Bodle Technologies was launched on 9th November. The company, funded by investors led by Oxford Sciences Innovation, is commercialising a new class of active smart glazing products based on research by Professor Harish Bhaskaran and Dr Peiman Hosseini published in Nature in 2014. Dr Hosseini – also a Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Hub member – will join Bodle as Chief Technology Officer. 

Nicole Grobert in Delorean

21st October 2015

Professor Grobert on Newsnight feature about "Back to the Future"

Prof Nicole Grobert has been interviewed on Newsnight for an item on "Back to the Future" whilst whizzing around a race track in a Delorean driven by Peter Snow. The interview broadcast on 20 Oct 2015 is currently on iPlayer and Nicole features after 39 minutes or on Youtube. Also see article on Oxford University science blog.

Professor P.S. Grant

8th October 2015

New Head of Department

Materials welcomes Professor Patrick Grant FREng  as the new Head of Department from 1st October 2015, taking over from  Professor Chris Grovenor who has stepped down after 10 years of exemplary service.  The Department wishes them both every success in their new roles.

Dr Pasta and Dr Speller

3rd August 2015

Two new staff appointments

The department is delighted to announce two new appointments to our academic staff.  Mauro Pasta has joined us from Stanford University as Associate Professor and Tutorial Fellow in St Edmund Hall. His main research area is in electrochemical energy storage.  Susannah Speller has been appointed to a Research Lecturership, and her research area is in superconducting materials.

GreenImpact Awards 2015

21st June 2015

GreenImpact Gold and Silver

The University’ Green Impact awards ceremony was held on Wednesday 17 June, and Materials achieved two awards; Silver for the Department and Gold for the Labs! We were one of two Departments within the entire scheme to be presented with two awards, so this is a huge achievement!

Congratulations, and thanks are due to Mimi Nguyen for all her hard work in transforming the labs into Gold standard working environments, and to the Committee for their tireless work throughout the year raising awareness, implementing new schemes and fundraising; Les Chorley, Alana Davies, Jing Hu, Nina Klein, Lorraine Laird, Euan McTurk, James Marrow and Paul Warren.

We would also like to thank everyone in the Department for considering the environment during your normal working practices, and to all those of you who walk, cycle and use public transport during your daily commutes.

Congratulations to everyone and keep up the good work!