Substitution and Sustainability in Functional Materials and Devices

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Materials Science and Engineering


Functional Materials and Devices (FMD) is a rapidly evolving subject which underpins many aspects of modern life such as antennas, energy storage devices, multicomponent sensors and smart materials. At a segment size of ~£3Bn p.a., the UK represents ~25% of the total EU production. However, the FMD sector in the EU and UK relies heavily on raw materials which have geopolitical, geological and environmental constraints. The response to materials scarcity and environmental restrictions depends on the industry, but companies indicate that resource efficiency, R&D, and innovations for substitution are necessary. Our vision is to utilise materials engineering, multiscale modeling, advanced manufacturing, supply chain/life cycle analysis and industrial partnerships to establish an holistic response to substitution and sustainability within the UK FMD sector.

6 mission-critical projects have been identified by the investigators which will be the initial focus of the programme. Follow on projects will be developed during the grant in collaboration with an expanding portfolio of industrial partners.

i) Elimination of expensive RE-oxides from the fabrication of multilayer ceramics capacitors (MLCC):
Currently, the lifetime of an MLCC is enhanced by the use of ~2wt% of RE-oxide (RE = Dy, Ho). Dy is the number one most endangered element according to the US government. Eradicating Dy and Ho from the fabrication MLCC is thus an urgent priority

ii) RE substitution in magnetocalorics for energy efficient refrigeration:
Dy is also a critical element in magnetocalorics for energy efficient refrigeration. RE-free strategies to enhance the giant magnetocaloric effect will be explored so that this highly efficiently refrigeration technology can be made commercial.

iii) Replacement of RE based oxides in dielectrically loaded satellite receive antennas:
Ultra small GPS microstrip patch antennas utilize ceramics based on barium RE titanates (BRET, RE = Nd and Sm) since these ar the only currently available high permittivity (80-90) materials with the required properties. We will explore new multilayer antenna designs on RE free, low cost dielectric substrates such as BaTi4O9.

iv) Manufacture of actuators using PbO-free piezoelectric oxides:
Environmentally friendly, PbO-free piezoelectrics) have been developed over the last decade as potential replacements for Pb(Zr,Ti)O3 (PZT). Device fabrication and characterization will be studied along with an investigation of critical issues concerning direct integration into end-user applications.

v) Replacing exotic compounds with robust oxide ceramics in thermoelectric generators
Currently, the best thermoelectric materials (Figure of Merit, ZT > 1) for waste heat harvesting are based on tellurides, antimonides and germanides. Not only are these compounds toxic and in short supply but they are also unstable at the proposed operating temperatures. Thermoelectric generators based on equally performant, more abundant and less toxic oxide materials will be developed

vi) Manufacturing routes to sustainability in light emitting diodes (LEDs)
Energy efficient LEDs have the capacity to replace completely conventional W based filament light sources but scaling up this technology results in critical thermal management problems which are alleviated by conductive Ag paste, too expensive to meet the envisaged market. New strategies to dissipate heat will therefore be explored so that W based high powered lighting can be replaced by LED energy efficient equivalents.

All projects will be make use of multiscale modelling in device design, materials development and understanding physical properties. In addition, a Supply Chain Environmental Analysis Tool (SCEnAT) will be utilized on all projects. SCEnAT is coded based on the state-of-the-art methodology in carbon and has been used by leading industry such as TATA, Rolls-Royce and Sheffield Forgemasters International.

Planned Impact

People: PDRAs will be involved in a multidisciplinary team spanning experts in materials engineering, functional device architecture & manufacture, and supply chain modelling. They will benefit from the involvement of a number of industries, exposing them to work practices and time-scales outside of academia. These partnerships will lower the barriers to future collaboration and provide an invaluable source of contacts for the researchers, allowing them to make informed decisions about their future careers. The impact on younger, recently appointed staff will be to enhance their management experience and help create a track record in large collaborative research grants, thereby creating opportunities for additional research funding from national or transnational bodies. PDRAs will become skilled advocates for UK science and technology by engendering the skills to act as future research leaders who will facilitate the next generation of British scientific endeavour.

Knowledge: The senior management team will benefit from closer collaboration with industry and colleagues in adjacent departments, facilitating cross-disciplinary research initiatives and resulting in research going in hitherto unknown directions. The inclusion of modelling (lifecycle, atomistic and finite element) will itself be an important method of interdisciplinary integration of the different technical work packages , allowing dialogue across disciplines and cementing the working relationship across three departments. Postgraduates and staff will gain a better understanding of developments in the field, thus, we will have a direct impact on undergraduate teaching within UoS. The different challenges identified by the research programme will be an opportunity to share both internally and externally new developments and best practice and will introduce non-affiliated scientists to the work of group.

Economy & Society: Industrial partners will benefit from access to facilities and expertise they lack internally, and the involvement of leading UK research groups will give them insight into emerging trends and scientific developments internationally. The aim is to develop new products or processes of commercial value, leading to increased revenue and profits. The process of collaboration de-risks the innovation process, thereby attracting private investment and advancing basic research up Technology Readiness Levels, whilst the knowledge accumulated during and after the funding period will ensure innovation and a strong impact on industrial sectors utilising FMDs. The specific needs of industrial partners will help focus the efforts of the research in an industrially relevant direction, paving the way for future materials research and stronger bonds between research institutions and industry. The use of Life Cycle Analysis and Supply Chain Modelling will give assurance that alternative materials and processing routes offer an environmentally and commercially sustainable route to manufacture, thereby increasing the likelihood of up-scaling and commercialisation.

Our research may impact: i) the electronics sector by funding substitutes for Rare Earths used in Multilayer Ceramic Capacitors; ii) industries such as the automotive sector that would benefit from waste heat reuse via from thermoelectric materials that are less costly and have a greater operational temperature range than existing materials; iii) sustainability of raw materials by eradicating the use of toxic elements (Se, Te ,Pb) and rare earths in functional materials; iv) expanding the 'internet of things' by creating smaller and more performant antennas; v) the environment by improving and simplifying manufacturing, reducing wastage and environmental concerns (e.g. additive manufacturing of FMD) and vi) Commercialisation of A+++ magnetic cooling domestic fridges, by reducing the RE content by >95%, thus reducing the overall manufacturing costs.


10 25 50
Description New methodology of fabricating perovskite inorganic/organic hybrid materials for solar cells, has led to two KTPs with GreatCell Solar (formerly Dyesol)
New formulation for high ZT oxide based thermoelectrics
Two new PbO-free piezoelectrics have been developed. One has been patented through Johnson Matthey with Khesro and Reaney as the inventors.
A reliable multilayer process for capacitors and piezoelectrics has been established
Temperature RE-free BaTiO3 compositions have been developed in collaboration with AVX ltd which along with modelling activity has led to a KTP with AVX
FEM code along with optimisation software has been written to speed up the development of temperature stable capacitors
New understanding of the role of RE dopants in enhancing the lifetime of BaTiO3 capacitors has been devised
A new crystallochemical framework to explain the behaviour of tetragonal tungsten bronzes has been established
Ultra low temperature (cold) ceramic sintering technology has been established in the FMD, has led to a 3rd KTP application with GreatCell solar and to two PhD projects sponsored by Johnson Matthey
Published in EES world record energy density for ceramic capacitor
Fabricated a C0G multilayer capacitor using cold sintering
Exploitation Route Knowledge Transfer Partnerships have been obtained to promote technology transfer. 3 KTPS awarded (2 x GreatCell solar, 1 x AVX). A third has been submitted with GreatCell solar on cold sintering. Innovate UK grant applied for, led by Johnson Matthey, on new environmentally sustainable internal electrodes for capacitors.
One patent has been awarded for a PbO-free piezoelectric ceramic
ICASE underway on perovskite structured solar cells with GreatCell Solar
ICASE with Johnson Matthey
Strategic partnership wit Johnson Matthey
Innovate UK seed grant with Johnson Matthey on solid state batteries.
FPET grant with EPSRC to fabricate piezoelectric power transformers.
Sectors Electronics,Energy,Environment

Description The work has led to a patent application through Johnson Matthey on a new PbO-free piezoelectric We have initiated a KTP with Dyesol UK ltd and are looking to commercialise solar cells. This has now led to a further KTP a CASE award. In addition there is a further KTP submitted. It has led to a strategic partnership with Johnson Matthey (£70k/pa) Sheffield has become an affiliate partner in the NSF funded Centre for Dielectrics and Piezoelectrics
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Electronics,Energy,Environment
Impact Types Societal,Economic

Description CASE Award
Amount £90,000 (GBP)
Organisation Johnson Matthey 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2017 
End 03/2021
Description KTP 10833 Greatcel
Amount £230,000 (GBP)
Funding ID KTP 10833 
Organisation Innovate UK 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2017 
End 12/2020
Description KTP 9683 Greatcell
Amount £220,000 (GBP)
Funding ID KTP 9683 
Organisation Innovate UK 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2015 
End 01/2018
Description Student top up
Amount £30,000 (GBP)
Organisation Johnson Matthey 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2016 
End 10/2019
Description Centre for Dielectrics and Piezoelectrics (CDP 
Organisation Center for Dielectrics & Piezoelectrics
PI Contribution Centre for Dielectrics and Piezoelectrics (CDP). Sheffield has now been voted in as an Affiliate Partner in the NSF funded CDP alongside North Carolina State University (NCSU) and Pennsylvania State University (PSU. The CDP has ~25 members which include Samsung, Apple, Murata and 3M. The joint grant with PSU was instrumental in cement our relationship with the centre based on a number of high profile publications with the CDP co-director Susan Mckinstry (international CoI on grant)
Collaborator Contribution Susan McKinstry and Ian M. Reaney are now co-directors of the CDP. The publications helped demontrate to the Industrial Members the strength of the partnership between the CDP and Sheffield
Impact Multidisciplinary. Ceramic Engineering, Life Cycle Assessment, Materials Modelling. Has led to joint projects, research, secondments and industrial funding
Start Year 2017
Description A lead-free piezoelectric and/or electrostrictive ceramic material having the general formula: (1-x) K0.5Bi0.5TiO3 - x[Bi(RE)Fe(Ti)O3]; wherein RE = non-radioactive rare earth elements as defined by IUPAC and wherein 0.01 < x < 0.25. 
IP Reference WO2017203211 
Protection Patent granted
Year Protection Granted 2017
Licensed Commercial In Confidence
Impact This has led in part to establishing strong links with German piezoelectric companies.
Description Industrial Day Seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact An industry based workshop to encourage take up of our technology by industry. 2 KTPs resulted from continued interaction with industrialists at the meeting
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Organisation of Conference Sustainable Functional Materials 2016 (SFM2016) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact SFM2016 was the first in a conference series which will continue in May 2018 on Sustainable Functional Materials. SFM2016 was in collaboration with the University of Surrey (MASSIVE) and attracted 70 national and international delegates. In addition, we organise a discussion session with a local sixth form college
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
Description symposium at Electronic Applications of Materials (EAM2018) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Organised a symposium on 'Substitution and Sustainability' at a leading international conference
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018