Funder: UKRI Project Code: EP/V001914/1
Funder Contribution: 7,671,800 GBP
Partners: University of Salford, Airbus Defence and Space, NPL, University of Toronto, CELLSIGHT TECHNOLOGIES, INC., Element Six Ltd (UK), BIOTEN Ltd., Hitachi High-Technologies Europe GmbH, SEAGATE TECHNOLOGY IRELAND, Qioptiq Ltd...
Development of materials has underpinned human and societal development for millennia, and such development has accelerated as time has passed. From the discovery of bronze through to wrought iron and then steel and polymers the visible world around has been shaped and built, relying on the intrinsic properties of these materials. In the 20th century a new materials revolution took place leading to the development of materials that are designed for their electronic (e.g. silicon), optical (e.g. glass fibres) or magnetic (e.g. recording media) properties. These materials changed the way we interact with the world and each other through the development of microelectronics (computers), the world wide web (optical fibre communications) and associated technologies. Now, two decades into the 21st century, we need to add more functionality into materials at ever smaller length-scales in order to develop ever more capable technologies with increased energy efficiency and at an acceptable manufacturing cost. In pursuing this ambition, we now find ourselves at the limit of current materials-processing technologies with an often complex interdependence of materials properties (e.g. thermal and electronic). As we approach length scales below 100s of nanometres, we have to harness quantum effects to address the need for devices with a step-change in performance and energy-efficiency, and ultimately for some cases the fundamental limitations of quantum mechanics. In this programme grant we will develop a new approach to delivering material functionalisation based on Nanoscale Advanced Materials Engineering (NAME). This approach will enable the modification of materials through the addition (doping) of single atoms through to many trillions with extreme accuracy (~20 nanometres, less than 1000th the thickness of a human hair). This will allow us to functionalise specifically a material in a highly localised location leaving the remaining material available for modification. For the first time this will offer a new approach to addressing the limitations faced by existing approaches in technology development at these small length scales. We will be able to change independently a material's electronic and thermal properties on the nanoscale, and use the precise doping to deliver enhanced optical functionality in engineered materials. Ambitiously, we aim to use NAME to control material properties which have to date proven difficult to exploit fully (e.g. quantum mechanical spin), and to control states of systems predicted but not yet directly experimentally observed or controlled (e.g. topological surface states). Ultimately, we may provide a viable route to the development of quantum bits (qubits) in materials which are a pre-requisite for the realisation of a quantum computer. Such a technology, albeit long term, is predicted to be the next great technological revolution NAME is a collaborative programme between internationally leading UK researchers from the Universities of Manchester, Leeds and Imperial College London, who together lead the Henry Royce Institute research theme identified as 'Atoms to Devices'. Together they have already established the required substantial infrastructure and state-of-the-art facilities through investment from Royce, the EPSRC and each University partner. The programme grant will provide the resource to assemble the wider team required to deliver the NAME vision, including UK academics, research fellows, and postdoctoral researchers, supported by PhD students funded by the Universities. The programme grant also has significant support from wider academia and industry based both within the UK and internationally.