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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/N004884/1
Title: Integration of Computation and Experiment for Accelerated Materials Discovery
Principal Investigator: Rosseinsky, Professor M
Other Investigators:
Alaria, Dr J Darling, Dr GR Cooper, Professor A
Zwijnenburg, Dr MA Adams, Professor DJ Slater, Professor B
Cora, Dr F Claridge, Dr JB
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Ceres Power Ltd ExxonMobil Imperial College London
Johnson Matthey National Physical Laboratory NSG Group (UK)
Unilever
Department: Chemistry
Organisation: University of Liverpool
Scheme: Programme Grants
Starts: 01 September 2015 Ends: 28 February 2021 Value (£): 6,650,587
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Materials Characterisation Materials Synthesis & Growth
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Chemicals Energy
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
03 Jun 2015 Programme Grant Interviews - 3 June 2015 (PS and Eng) Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Society faces major challenges that require disruptive new materials solutions. For example, there is a worldwide demand for materials for sustainable energy applications, such as safer new battery technologies or the efficient capture and utilization of solar energy. This project will develop an integrated approach to designing, synthesizing and evaluating new functional materials, which will be developed across organic and inorganic solids, and also hybrids that contain both organic and inorganic modules in a single solid.

The UK is well placed to boost its knowledge economy by discovering breakthrough functional materials, but there is intense global completion. Success, and long-term competitiveness, is critically dependent on developing improved capability to create such materials. All technologically advanced nations have programmes that address this challenge, exemplified by the $100 million of initial funding for the US Materials Genome Initiative.

The traditional approach to building functional materials, where the properties arise from the placement of the atoms, can be contrasted with large-scale engineering. In engineering, the underpinning Newtonian physics is understood to the point that complex structures, such as bridges, can be constructed with millimetre precision. By contrast, the engineering of functional materials relies on a much less perfect understanding of the relationship between structure and function at the atomic level, and a still limited capability to achieve atomic level precision in synthesis. Hence, the failure rate in new materials synthesis is enormous compared with large-scale engineering, and this requires large numbers of researchers to drive success, placing the UK at a competitive disadvantage compared to larger countries. The current difficulty of materials design at the atomic level also leads to cultural barriers: in building a bridge, the design team would work closely with the engineering construction team throughout the process. By contrast, the direct, day-to-day integration of theory and synthesis to identify new materials is not common practice, despite impressive advances in the ability of computation to tackle more complex systems. This is a fundamental challenge in materials research.

This Programme Grant will tackle the challenge by delivering the daily working-level integration of computation and experiment to discover new materials, driven by a closely interacting team of specialists in structure and property prediction, measurement and materials synthesis. Key to this will be unique methods developed by our team that led to recent landmark publications in Science and Nature. We are therefore internationally well placed to deliver this timely vision.

Our approach will enable discovery of functional materials on a much faster timescale. It will have broad scope, because we will develop it across materials types with a range of targeted properties. It will have disruptive impact because it uses chemical understanding and experiment in tandem with calculations that directly exploit chemical knowledge. In the longer term, the approach will enable a wide range of academic and industrial communities in chemistry and also in physics and engineering, where there is often a keener understanding of the properties required for applications, to design better materials. This approach will lead to new materials, such as battery electrolytes, materials for information storage, and photocatalysts for solar energy conversion, that are important societal and commercial targets in their own right.

We will exploit discoveries and share the approach with our commercial partners via the Knowledge Centre for Materials Chemistry and the new Materials Innovation Factory, a £68 million UK capital investment in state-of-the-art materials research facilities for both academic and industrial users. Industry and the Universities commit 55% of the project cost.

Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.liv.ac.uk