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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/W026937/1
Title: Linking formation mechanisms, nanostructure and function in metal oxide nanosheets using multimodal characterisation.
Principal Investigator: Allan, Dr P
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und Deregallera Ltd Diamond Light Source
Promethean Particles Ltd
Department: School of Chemistry
Organisation: University of Birmingham
Scheme: New Investigator Award
Starts: 01 April 2023 Ends: 31 March 2026 Value (£): 403,089
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Materials Characterisation Materials Synthesis & Growth
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
09 Feb 2022 EPSRC Physical Sciences Prioritisation Panel - February 2022 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Solid-state materials underpin many of the advanced technologies which impact modern life, from silicon chip microprocessors to lithium-ion batteries. Great strides in advancing their performance have been achieved by understanding how the atomic structure of a material determines the properties it displays. In order to accelerate the discovery of the new materials required to address societal challenges such as climate change, the ability to design materials with desirable physical properties, and the synthetic pathways to realise them is vital. The Nobel-prize winning discovery of graphene in 2004 with its remarkable conductivity and strength has ushered in the era of nanostructured materials - materials which have at least one dimension is in the nanometer range - because of their exciting potential to display novel or improved physical properties. However, the complex and disordered atomic arrangements within nanostructured materials currently makes determining how the arrangement of atoms determines their physical properties impossible, because it falls between gaps in current structure characterisation capability. Developing tools to capture and describe nanostructure is, therefore, a crucial scientific challenge.

To address this need, this proposal will develop a characterisation platform capable of understanding nanostructure in disordered layered metal oxides. Assembling a team of collaborators from academia, industry and central facilities, the proposed research will use complementary probes to develop models which capture all relevant aspects of the material's structure, from the local arrangement of atoms through to longer length-scale (tens to hundreds of nanometres) features such as pores and channels, providing a comprehensive picture to link to properties.

We will then develop experiments which capture structural data when a material is placed under its operational conditions. These experiments track the changes to a material's structure with exquisite sensitivity. Analysing these data sets using our structural modelling platform will unlock the wealth of information contained within them, allowing us to (1) determine which aspects of nanostructure are responsible for a material's physical properties and (2) monitor how atoms assemble into the final layered structure in real-time, thus determining how the reaction conditions conspire to give complex structure. Together, this will deliver a set of "design rules" for obtaining materials displaying particular physical properties. We will demonstrate this approach on the material sodium trititanate, a technologically important material with potential for use as a low-cost, highly sustainable sodium-ion battery anode for grid-storage applications.

In the short-term, this project will provide a step-change in the detail available about the structure of nanostructured materials and deliver new understanding of how synthetic conditions, nanostructure and functionality are interwoven. In the longer term, this methodology may have far-reaching implications for a diverse range of fields where nanostructure underpins performance - from carbon nanomaterials for drug delivery to quantum magnetism - as well as for the rational design and optimisation of energy-efficient synthetic processes.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.bham.ac.uk