Exploring Electronic Materials with Extreme Conditions

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of Chemistry


Electronic technologies such as computers, mobile phones and tablets have emerged from understanding and
manipulation of electronic and magnetic materials. Complex correlated electron materials such as superconductors and magnets provide a challenge for chemists, physicists and materials scientists to discover new materials and ground states that will guide theory and underpin future electronic technologies. The use of extreme physical conditions is very important to electronic materials research. High temperatures and pressures are used to synthesise and crystallize dense new materials with strongly connected atoms, while property measurements at multiple extremes (combinations of high pressure, low temperatures and high magnetic fields) enable the electron correlations to be explored. These methods will be applied to topical materials such as high temperature and exotic superconductors, spintronic materials, magnetic monopoles in spin ices, and topological electronic materials.

The proposed Platform grant will enable us to take a more coherent and strategic view of our research. It will ensure that we make the best use of expensive and demanding materials preparation facilities (Walker press for high pressure and temperature synthesis and Czochralski growth of crystals). Measurements at multiple extremes are a particular common interest, and Platform support will enable us to coordinate and integrate the activities of our team of PDRA's who design, build and use pressure cells for electronic transport, magnetization and neutron scattering measurements. It will also enable our PDRA's and students to gain a broader experience and training by working with colleagues with backgrounds in other disciplines.

Planned Impact

Both electronic materials and the extreme conditions technologies used to prepare and study them are important to diverse communities. New superconductors have impact from fundamental physics through chemistry and materials science to applications in SQUID's and practical conductors. Measurements e.g. of magnetisation under pressure, are important to many scientists and new inserts for standard measurement platforms may be commercialised. Trained scientists with PhD and postdoctoral experience are valuable to the UK economy particularly in the materials sector. Outreach activities featuring electronic materials and extreme conditions are of interest to the public and can prove inspiring to school children.

Materials Impacts
The impact of materials discoveries is initially in the scientific community, but then spreads into the commercial sector, e.g. superconductivity research on high-Tc cuprate and MgB2 materials has resulted in cables, SQUID electronics, microwave devices, fault current limiters, and levitated devices such as flywheels for energy storage.

Technological Impacts
To discover, study and optimise the electronic properties of matter it is important to be able to measure over ranges of temperature, pressure and magnetic field. We have applied modern computational FEA methods to the design of high pressure inserts for standard measurement platforms. We will build on this by developing new cells to make measurements up to 1 Mbar (100 GPa) and new non-metallic cells using engineering polymers for high pressure ac magnetisation measurements at high frequencies. Sales of such equipment are expected to raise approximately £150k.

Commercialisation Impacts
Potential commercialisation of processes or equipment will be investigated by working with CSEC's Knowledge Transfer Officer and IP will be protected through patent applications with ERI (Edinburgh Research and Innovation).

Training Impacts
This PG project will have a strong training impac through support for PDRA's. By providing them with continuity of employment between grants and the opportunity to explore more risky ideas as short Exploratory projects, they will gain confidence in generating and implementing their own ideas beyond what is possible through standard Responsive Mode projects. This will benefit their future careers in universities or industry, or in related careers such as teaching, commercial or public sector jobs. In addition to the training of the PDRA's employed on the grant, we estimate that 20-30 other PDRA's and PhD students will also benefit from the integrated research environment that we will be able to offer our co-workers with Platform support.

Outreach Impacts
A direct impact on outreach will be through showing the PG research and equipment to visitors; for example to our CM-CDT industrial associates. The university also has an annual open-day for the general public each September. Our students and PDRAs will participate and display introductory posters on their research close to the equipment to improve the experience of such visits. We will foster outreach to the public via schools and science fairs that is led by PG PDRAs and students. Future activities during the project period will include "Book a Scientist", an initiative aimed at Primary and Secondary Schools and presentations at the Edinburgh and other science festivals.


10 25 50