£10m boost for advanced materials research

A £10.3million grant has been awarded to four UK universities to find safer, more sustainable alternatives to the rare, expensive and difficult to source raw materials used by industry.

Teams from the universities of Bristol, Surrey, York and UCL will lead projects to assess the viability of using different, replacement materials in the manufacturing supply chain, considering their properties, cost, performance, and scalability.

Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, said: "Advanced materials will ensure safer and more sustainable development of resources to boost the capability of UK manufacturing.

"This investment in research will help keep the UK ahead in the global race for exciting manufacturing innovations."

UCL is leading one of the four projects to find alternatives to transparent conducting oxide materials used in window coatings, solar power panels and mobile phones. Another will see a team led by the University of Bristol explore new active materials for photovoltaic solar cells based on abundant and low cost elements.

Researchers at the University of Surrey have been tasked with synthesising alternative thermoelectric and piezeoelectric materials used in devices such as sensors, actuators and energy harvesters, while the University of York will look at how waste biomass and CO2 could be used to replace petrochemical feedstocks in the manufacture of polymers.

The money has been awarded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (ESPRC), with industry partners adding a further £2.8m of investment.

Laura Hopperton

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