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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/K036408/1
Title: INSPIRE Physical Sciences: A synergy for next generation materials science
Principal Investigator: Cespedes, Professor O
Other Investigators:
Teobaldi, Dr G MacLaren, Professor DA Bos, Dr J
Coldea, Professor AI
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Physics and Astronomy
Organisation: University of Leeds
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 April 2013 Ends: 30 September 2014 Value (£): 50,457
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Materials Characterisation Materials Synthesis & Growth
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
10 Dec 2012 Inspire (Physical Sciences) 2012 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Growing concerns regarding the cost of energy as well as the sustainability of the current industrial and economic infrastructure in front of global population increase have made the development of transformative, sustainable technologies capable of supporting improved industrial and economic models an urgent priority of mankind as a whole. Crucial for these technological developments is the definition and understanding of novel materials which, as previously happened in human history, could unlock new scientific and technological horizons and positively impact across society, economy and politics. These elements have turned research in transformative, multifunctional materials into a priority of funding agencies and Industry both in UK and world-wide.

Very recently, a new class of multifunctional materials, topological insulators, has started to receive scientific attention due to their appealing physical properties with potential applications in a broad range of areas as diversified as energy storage, biosensing and quantum computing. The scientific interest in these materials originate from the realisation that, unlike the vast majority of known materials, topological insulators can conduct current extremely well (even as well as superconductors) through their surfaces but not through their bulk. Furthermore, due to quantum mechanical laws governing the relationship between the (crystal) momentum and spin of electrons in a solid, the surfaces of topological insulators could be used to transport information without the need of moving charge (as it happens in contemporary electronics devices) with the net result of no energy or information dissipation.

The breadth of the scientific challenges accompanying research in topological insulators, and the potentially ground-breaking impact that their development could generate in very diverse technological fields readily define one of the contemporary frontiers in interdisciplinary research at the boundary between Physics, Chemistry, Engineering, Medicine and Health Sciences. This in turn calls for a multidisciplinary research approach and, almost immediately, uncovers two limitations of the current research structure in the limited connections existing between diversified research communities, and in the lack of a common language to allow effective knowledge transfer and organisation.

Prompted by these considerations, and compatibly with the available budget, we will take topological insulators as a case study of multifunctional material to establish a multi-disciplinary research platform and pioneer:

(i) The creation of a common research language by bringing together researchers with diversified skill sets and expertise in solid state and surface chemistry, magnetism and biosensing, electron microscopy, computational chemistry, catalysis and photocatalysis, electron transport and superconductivity.

(ii) Novel and self-contained research protocols in materials science where all the steps including synthesis, doping, surface analysis, electron transport measurement and first principles interpretation of data will be executed with the aim of favouring expertise mixing and practice-based understanding of the actual limitations and potential of the methods used by one project partner in the research field of the others.

(iii) Novel research in the potential of chemical doping for improved topological insulators, and in their chemical stability to environmental agents.

(iv) Preliminary study about the potential of multiferroic material for (photo-)catalytic application for a future grant application.

At the end of the grant, the platform will have defined a common language and acquired a broad range of expertise and the cohesion needed to develop full scale grants that will not be limited to modification of already existing (however interesting) materials, but will tackle research in novel, sustainably generated, environmentally non-hazardous multifunctional materials.
Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.leeds.ac.uk