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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/M002438/1
Title: Engineering Fellowships for Growth: Imperceptible smart coatings based on atomically thin materials
Principal Investigator: Craciun, Professor MF
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
AWE Blaise Pascal University IMEC
Technical University of Denmark Thomas Swan
Department: Engineering Computer Science and Maths
Organisation: University of Exeter
Scheme: EPSRC Fellowship
Starts: 01 October 2014 Ends: 30 September 2019 Value (£): 1,126,501
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Materials Characterisation Materials Processing
Optoelect. Devices & Circuits
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Aerospace, Defence and Marine Chemicals
Electronics Energy
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
12 Mar 2014 Engineering Fellowships for Growth - Advanced Materials Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The need for greater fuel efficiency in the aeronautical, automotive and aerospace industries is driving the demand for low weight high-performance materials. For example, low specific weight electronic devices which can generate light or harvest electricity and can be embedded into paints or windows would make the structures of current vehicles considerably lighter, therefore more efficient. At the same time, low specific weight electrical conductors acting as a ground in the electrical circuits of vehicles and yet able to protect aircraft from lightning bolts would also reduce considerably the vehicle weight. Extra lightweight transparent conductors and semiconductors also constitute the fundamental ingredients for the next generation flexible solar cells and future flexible electronic components. Atomically thin materials, not only offer these desired properties, but with their excellent mechanical, thermal, electrical, and gas impermeability properties are ideal for the realization of multi-functional coatings.

Atomically thin materials are the thinnest materials which can be conceived. Graphene -a monoatomic carbon layer- is certainly the most celebrated and studied representative of this new family of materials This is the strongest known material, the best electrical and thermal conductor which is mechanically flexible and transparent. Other emerging atomically thin materials, e.g. dichalcogenides such as MoS2, have complementary characteristics to graphene such as semiconducting properties necessary for transistor applications. Recent advances in chemical functionalization have shown that the properties of these atomically thin materials can be enhanced to unprecedented levels by chemical bonding of a molecule or a chemical element to the pristine material. The most recent example of the potential of chemical functionalization is GraphExeter, a new graphene-based material which my team developed at Exeter. In this case, functionalization with FeCl3 of few-layer graphene results in the best transparent electrical conductor which outperforms Indium Tin Oxide used in displays.

The exploitation of atomically thin materials with extraordinary performances in high-value products such as smart imperceptible coatings is exactly at the heart of this proposal. Thus, this ambitious fellowship aims to build UK leadership in engineering advanced materials by exploiting the emerging technologies of atomically thin materials for prototyping imperceptible smart coatings. This will accelerate the fast development of highly efficient aircrafts, cars, displays and solar cells with added novel functionalities. Achieving this aim will be the foundation of several cutting-edge technologies crucial for our society, such as transforming the windscreens of cars and airplanes into display controls and GPS-activated maps and at the same time allowing their windows and paints to harvest electricity from the sun.

Together with the team that I will develop to deliver this research vision, we will aim at understanding the materials properties and processing challenges involved in the large scale manufacturing of atomically thin conducting and semiconducting coatings. Building on this understanding, my team will focus on developing high-value products by exploring the sustainable use of atomically thin materials for prototyping multi-functional smart coatings. Specifically, we will develop imperceptible coatings, which will not only enhance the efficiency of aircrafts, cars, displays and solar cells, but will add novel functionalities, such as light emission and energy harvesting. The outcomes of this research will therefore have a revolutionary impact on society as it will change the current landscape of many industries, ranging from automotive and aerospace to information and communication technologies. My track record of outstanding research in the studies of such materials puts me in a unique position to complete such challenging tasks.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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Organisation Website: http://www.ex.ac.uk