Bright IDEAS Award: A low cost route to manufacture nanostructured materials

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bath
Department Name: Mechanical Engineering


This research will develop 'disposable master' technology for large volume manufacture of nano-structured bulk metallic and ceramic materials. I take the metallic or ceramic substrate that I wish to nanopattern, coat it with a UV resist and simply roll onto the resist a flexible 'disposable master' with an appropriate nano-scale pattern. After removing the disposable master and curing the resist, the substrate with the patterned resist is chemically or ion beam etched to form a nanostructured surface. This approach will be applied to two novel applications using metallic and ceramic substrates to demonstrate the technology as a simple, low-cost method for manufacture of large areas of nanostructured materials. Single crystal ferroelectrics are chosen as the ceramic substrate, since the ability to manufacture nano-pillar arrays (~200nm width) of high performance ferroelectric is of significant interest for medical transducers. This is due to the need for small feature sizes for high frequency ultrasonics (>100 MHz). Vanadium is chosen as the metal substrate. The disposable master will be used to produce a regular array of nano-holes in the vanadium surface, which is then anodised to form a nano-porous vanadium oxide surface. The high surface area, short diffusion paths and interconnected porosity results in the material having high energy storage with potential application of new generation of electrode materials.Potential additional applications for nanostructured surfaces include tribology, hydrodynamics, aerodynamics, biocompatibility, adhesives and catalysts.

Planned Impact

This project will develop large-area low cost nano-imprinting of engineering materials and engineering surfaces. The impact is both technological and economical. Wafer-scale thermal embossing and step-and flash imprint techniques are now commercially available along with electron beam lithography. However the need for expensive large-scale moulds and an additional mechanical system increases the total cost and prevents the take-up and exploration of nano-structured materials and surfaces. The process to be developed as part of this research is simple and low cost and opens new opportunities for manufacturers without the need for expensive manufacturing facilities e.g. SMEs, bulk materials manufacturers, niche applications - people who previously would not have ever considered employing nanotechnology due to cost, complexity or lead time. The metallic and ceramic substrates to be studied aim to demonstrate the concept of the disposable master to the manufacturing community and materials developers and act as a showcase for the potential materials and nanostructures that can be produced by the method proposed in the research. The disposable master approach has a low thermal budget/environmental impact since other processes, such as thermal embossing, require high temperature and high pressure which reduces throughput and process reliability. The two specific cases have been chosen for impact and showcase the types of materials and types of surfaces than may be nanostrucutred to industry and academia. Case 1: Medical Transducers (single crystal ferroelectric) Case 2: Battery Electrodes (polycrystalline metal) If the approach can be demonstrated on bulk ceramics and bulk metallic materials it has the potential for impact in terms of materials and surfaces for a range of applications and materials, such as (i) tribology (boundary layer manipulation) (ii) wetting (hydrophobic/hydrophilic surfaces) (iii) biocompatibility (cell adherence to nano-holes) (iv) hydrodynamic and aerodynamic surfaces (v) catalysts (high surface area or controlled surfaces) (vi) adhesives (high surface area)


10 25 50
Description Ability to nanostructure piezoelectric materials for large areas.
Exploitation Route The ability to nanostructure surfaces has been used in my ERC Advanced Investigator Award for Energy Harvesting (Novel Energy Materials - Engineering Science and Integrated Systems) - NEMESIS
Sectors Aerospace

Defence and Marine


Description Used for ERC Advanced Investigator Award
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Energy
Impact Types Societal


Description ERC Advanced Investigator
Amount € 2,000,000 (EUR)
Funding ID ERC GrantAgreement no. 320963 
Organisation European Research Council (ERC) 
Sector Public
Country Belgium
Start 02/2013 
End 02/2018
Description University of Bath
Amount £150,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Bath 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2012 
End 07/2013