New Electronic Materials from Extreme Conditions

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of Chemistry


The discovery of new correlated-electron ground states such as new types of superconductor and magnet that may underpin future technologies, e.g. for computer memories, is a challenge requiring the combined skills of chemists, physicists, materials scientists and engineers. Exciting discoveries in recent years have included high temperature cuprate and pnictide superconductors, and colossal magnetoresistance (CMR) manganites. The prediction of such properties is, however, notoriously difficult and many high impact discoveries have been made serendipitously e.g. superconductivity in MgB2. Our more targeted approach is to use extreme conditions to facilitate the discovery of new electronic materials. High pressure-temperature synthesis provides dense new materials in which electron correlations are enhanced and may be altered by chemical doping. Careful tuning of low temperatures, high pressures and high magnetic fields can then be used to push materials to the tipping points where new electronic ground states form. The applicants have strong backgrounds in different disciplines that will be combined to achieve our ambitious goal of discovering new materials with notable properties.

Support through this Platform award will add considerable value to the existing arrangement. It will ensure continuity for our core group of key staff and the essential research expertise that they bring. We will have the flexibility to respond to major developments and explore speculative but potentially rewarding new directions. It will provide a high profile for our electronic materials research group as a distinct entity within the broader programme of CSEC. Current international collaborations will be strengthened by involving the whole Platform team, and will facilitate new links to other internationally-leading groups. Inviting research lecturers and exchanging research staff with such groups will be a further benefit. The Platform award will also augment the cross-disciplinary nature of the training that we can provide to our students and PDRA's. Although they (and we) formally belong to three separate UoE Schools, working together in the same institute and henceforth as a common group will provide a stimulating atmosphere to generate new ideas and discoveries in electronic materials research.

Planned Impact

Both electronic materials and the extreme conditions technologies used to prepare and study them are important to diverse communities. New superconductors have impact from fundamental physics through chemistry and materials science to applications in SQUID's and practical conductors. Measurements e.g. of magnetisation under pressure, are important to many scientists and new inserts for standard measurement platforms may be commercialised. Trained scientists with PhD and postdoctoral experience are valuable to the UK economy particularly in the materials sector. Outreach activities featuring electronic materials and extreme conditions are of interest to the public and can prove inspiring to school children.

Materials Impacts
The impact of materials discoveries is initially in the scientific community, but then spreads into the commercial sector, e.g. superconductivity research on high-Tc cuprate and MgB2 materials has resulted in cables, SQUID electronics, microwave devices, fault current limiters, and levitated devices such as flywheels for energy storage.

Technological Impacts
To discover, study and optimise the electronic properties of matter it is important to be able to measure over ranges of temperature, pressure and magnetic field. We have applied modern computational FEA methods to the design of high pressure inserts for standard measurement platforms and our initial results are very encouraging - a prototype magnetometer cell has enabled measurements to be made up to 10 GPa pressure, an order of magnitude higher than is possible with conventional cells, and new non-metallic cells using engineering polymers offer high pressure AC magnetisation measurements.

Potential commercialisation of processes or equipment will be investigated by working with CSEC's Knowledge Transfer Officer and IP will be protected through patent applications with ERI (Edinburgh Research and Innovation). Some of the developed equipment will be of immediate use to the scientific community, e.g. HP inserts for DC and AC susceptibility measurements within standard SQUID magnetometers. We will approach equipment suppliers such as Elliot Scientific (UK) to investigate possibilities of manufacturing the inserts ourselves through investment in our in-house workshop facilities via a spin-out, or licensing the manufacture to the supplier or a third party. Commercialisation of our previously developed technology is exemplified by the recent first sale of an electronic micro-spot welder.

Training Impacts
This Platform project will have a strong training impact through support for several PDRA's. By providing them with continuity of employment between grants and the opportunity to explore more risky ideas as short Exploratory projects, they will gain confidence in generating and implementing their own ideas beyond what is possible through standard Responsive Mode projects. This will benefit their future careers in universities or industry, or in related careers such as teaching, commerical or public service jobs. In addition to the training of the PDRA's employed on the grant, we estimate that 20-30 other PDRA's and PhD students will also benefit from the integrated research environment that we will be able to offer our co-workers with Platform support.

Results from this project will contribute to our outreach activities that communicate high pressure science and technology to the public. Recent activities have included talks at international science fairs in the UK and Russia, participation in Royal Society summer exhibitions, and a demonstration of high pressure experiments on Scottish TV. Many of the above events are aimed at school age children for whom demonstrations of a magnet levitated by a superconductor or 'elephants in stilettos' ideas of high pressure provide an inspiration for future scientific studies and careers.


10 25 50

publication icon
Huxley A (2015) Ferromagnetic superconductors in Physica C: Superconductivity and its Applications

publication icon
Johnston H (2018) Dimensional crossover of correlated anion disorder in oxynitride perovskites. in Chemical communications (Cambridge, England)

publication icon
Kepa MW (2016) Piston cylinder cell for high pressure ultrasonic pulse echo measurements. in The Review of scientific instruments

publication icon
Kusmartseva A (2017) Bistability and relaxor ferrimagnetism in off-stoichiometric NiCrO 3 in Journal of Magnetism and Magnetic Materials

publication icon
Lazurova J (2015) Magnetic Properties and Mössbauer spectroscopy of NdFe 1-x Mn x O 3 in Journal of Physics: Conference Series

publication icon
Mazur M (2018) Pressure-induced chemistry for the 2D to 3D transformation of zeolites in Journal of Materials Chemistry A

Description New magnetoresistive double double perovskites have been synthesised using equipment and methods developed under this award.
Exploitation Route Spintronics sector
Sectors Electronics