Characterisation of Nanomaterials for Energy

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Materials


Characterisation underpins all developments in new materials for energy where structural, chemical and electronic information across length scales is needed to develop a complete understanding of the relationship between materials properties, function and structure.
The renewal of the Oxford Materials Characterisation Platform grant focuses on the Characterisation of Nanoscale Materials for Energy to flexibly support an expanded team of skilled post-doctoral research scientists working collaboratively on the characterisation of a range of energy related materials related to the nuclear industry, catalysis and solar and fuel cell technology.
The platform grant renewal will support key staff between fixed term contacts to enable them to develop their independent research careers. In addition we will also use the platform grant to "pump prime" a number of evolving and strategically important interdisciplinary research directions.

We will develop correlated methods for the characterisation of energy materials using
1. All available signals arising from electron scattering in the (Scanning) Transmission Electron Microscope (S)TEM) for structural and chemical analysis at the atomic scale.
3. NanoSIMS in characterising nuclear materials degradation and polymeric materials.
4. Super resolution optical microscopy and spectroscopy, and correlating these with equivalent electron based methods in studies of photocatalysts
5. Scanning Tunnelling Microscopy (STM) to understand model catalysts and ceramic membranes for fuel cells
6. Atom Probe Tomography (APT) for the characterisation of nanoparticles for catalysis
7. Electron Backscatter Diffraction (EBSD) to characterise long range strain and deformation in materials for comparison with atomistic data obtained from EM, APT and STM.
Overall, this platform grant renewal will sustain and startegically develop a research team which brings together all the relevant skills needed to support a comprehensive characterisation strategy, so that progress can be made towards materials characterisation of energy materials relevant to UK industry.

Planned Impact

Our underlying motivation in the research to be supported by this Platform Grant is that it should contribute to the development of advanced characterisation of energy materials in a cross disciplinary, multi technique approach.
This approach will have clear societal benefits, to users, and commercial benefits, to instrument manufacturers. The EPSRC Nanotechnology Grand Challenges include Energy as one theme to be pursued and accurate materials characterisation is a key component of this. The societal and economic impacts of new materials for energy are huge as highlighted in the 2010, RCUK Review of Energy. The specific economic impacts are in the manufacture of new materials and in the commercial development of improved instrumentation. The societal impact is equally large as energy is such a pervasive part of modern life.
We foresee four main classes of impact arising from our research:
1. An improved understanding of materials in the fields of catalysis, solar cells, nuclear materials and others based on more accurate characterisation of their structure and chemistry. In turn this may lead to materials with improved properties. Examples include catalytic selectivity or resistance to poisoning which require an understanding of atomic scale surface structures and higher efficiency solid state lighting which is critically dependent on defect structure and density.
2. The development of improved characterisation approaches correlated across different length scales. This will have direct impact on commercial instrument development and in industries where characterisation is a key part of process control and refinement.
3. The career development of skilled scientists for UK academia and industry who will be trained to the highest level and able to operate state of the art instrumentation. This has evident impact on the skills base of the UK workforce.
4. We have found that our work, in a field which impacts daily life can be disseminated in such as way as to excite the imagination of some of the best and brightest school students motivating them to choose to study mathematical and physical science subjects at A level and beyond. This helps to sustain a future supply of qualified people for a wide range of professions and industrial careers.


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Description Applications of advanced characterisation to the understanding of a range of materials important to energy applications, including Graphene and other 2D materials, solar cells and optical devices
Exploitation Route Further applications of methods developed to a wider range of materials problems
Sectors Education,Electronics,Energy,Other

Description Development of novel characterisation methods including Ptychography in various modes This is now being applied to a range of materials problems in academic in various laboratories and more recently is finding applications in structural biology
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Education,Energy,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology,Other
Description Instrument Development with JEOL Ltd 
Organisation Jeol UK Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Joint development of a time resolved TEM
Collaborator Contribution Joint development of a time resolved TEM
Impact None to date
Start Year 2018