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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/N010345/1
Title: Engineering van der Waals heterostructures: from atomic level layer-by-layer assembly to printable innovative devices
Principal Investigator: Falko, Professor V
Other Investigators:
Hu, Professor Z Derby, Professor B Novoselov, Professor K
Casiraghi, Professor C Ferrari, Professor AC Yeates, Professor SG
Geim, Professor Sir A
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
BGT Materials Ltd Cambridge Nanosystems FlexEnable Limited
Merck Ltd National Physical Laboratory NPL Novalia
Tata Steel Limited
Department: Physics and Astronomy
Organisation: University of Manchester, The
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 13 March 2016 Ends: 12 March 2021 Value (£): 4,056,135
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Manufacturing Machine & Plant
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Manufacturing Electronics
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
08 Sep 2015 EPSRC Grand Challenge 3 - Engineering across Length Scales Announced
29 Jul 2015 Grand Challenges Prioritisation Meeting Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Modern technology demands increasingly larger number of new materials to suit the specific requirement of the particular applications. The search for new materials, or even better, for materials with tuneable properties, has dramatically intensified over the last decade. The best strategy here are the composite materials and heterostructures, which allow ultimate tuning of material parameters, combinations of otherwise unmatchable properties and can provide multiple functionalities. However, usually such materials are not readily accessible due to cost and the complex technology required for assembly/production of such structures. Here we propose a new paradigm in creating such composite materials: heterostructures based on 2D atomic crystals, which can be assembled by mass-production means. This way we will decouple the performance of particular devices from the properties of naturally available materials. The ultimate goal is to develop a new paradigm of "materials on demand" with properties precisely tailored for novel complex architectures and structures. The ground-breaking nature of our research and the development of the mass-production technique of the production of such heterostructures will have huge impact on future technology. We will also demonstrate prototypes of multifunctional devices which are based on such a technology. Examples of devices we are planning to create are temperature, humidity, light, strain and many other sensors which will be battery-free and powered by absorbing radio waves (RFID technology, also enabled by printed electronics) for remote sensing applications. Such wirelessly interconnected tuneable sensors and actuators can create a platform for the fast-growing "Internet of Things" paradigm.

2D atomic crystals are one atom thick materials. The family of such crystals is very large and includes transition metal dichalcogenides, hexagonal boron nitride, graphene among many others. Collectively, they cover a large range of properties: from conductive to insulating, from transparent to opaque, from mechanically stiff to compliant. Also, very often the properties of such 2D crystals are very different from the properties of their 3D precursors. Interestingly, many of the unique properties of the 2D crystals are preserved even when we create suspensions (2D inks) out of these materials. Such inks can be used for deposition of the 2D materials to any surfaces, creating low-cost, conformal functional coating.

Still, the most important property of materials in this family is the possibility to assemble them into 3D stacks, creating novel heterostructures. Such heterostructures have proven to have new functionalities (tunnelling transistors, LED, etc) or even combinations of several functionalities. The large selection of 2D crystals, ensures that the parameters of such heterostructures can be tuned in a wide range.

In this project we propose to develop a low-cost technique to be able to print such heterostructures from 2D inks. Several members of the consortium have already demonstrated that tunnelling diodes, tunnelling transistors and photodetectors can be printed using standard mass-production technologies. We will significantly increase the range of heterostructures produced by such methods, and will specifically concentrate on heterostructures which produce active response (thermo-power, piezoelectric, photovoltaic, etc). Such heterostructures can act as sensors in a number of applications. We will then combine this technology with already developed technique of printing RFID antenna by using graphene inks. This would allow us to create RFID sensors of different types which do not require power source. For instance, we can record temperature of a product or illumination this product has been subjected to. Multifunctional sensors can naturally be achieved with such technique (for instance temperature, strain and humidity could be recorded at the same time).

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Organisation Website: http://www.man.ac.uk