UK Centre for Structural Ceramics

The Departments of Materials and Mechanical Engineering at Imperial College London have been awarded €5.5M by the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to set up a national centre for structural ceramics. Starting on 1st July 2008, the Centre aims to address the UK’s lack of critical mass in this area and will develop strong links to energy, aerospace and defence, transport and healthcare industries.

Welcoming the EPSRC award, Professor Bill Lee, Head of the Department of Materials and new Director of the Centre, said ‘this is a fantastic opportunity not just for Imperial College but for the UK’s structural ceramics community to make a big international impact. These materials underpin many key areas of the UK economy, from energy generation to healthcare, and I look forward to working with industry and academia on leading edge projects which will establish this facility as a world class leader.’

The new funding will support the construction of state-of-the-art laboratory facilities at Imperial’s South Kensington Campus. Part of the development process will include the design and construction of new instruments capable of measuring structural properties in ceramics at elevated temperatures, in conjunction with equipment manufacturers.

The Centre will support three new permanent academic positions (two joint between the Departments of Materials and Mechanical Engineering) at lecturer to full professor level in: measurement of high temperature properties; high temperature processing; and multiscale and life prediction modelling.

The academic positions will have funding for post-doctoral researchers and PhD students. The five-year funding package includes support for a research manager, a technician, three PhD students based at other UK universities, and the hosting of extended visits by world-leaders to London as well as national and international conferences.

Key research areas will include, but are by no means limited to: high temperature processing of composites and non-oxides; nanocharacterisation and modelling of composites; processing and environmental protection of ultra-high temperature and hard non-oxide ceramics; porous ceramics with controllable pore networks; interfaces and film-substrate strain engineering of thin films and coatings. To large extent the key areas will be governed by the interests of the appointees. In addition, €2.5M funding for laboratory and office refurbishment has been made available by Imperial College. Plans have already been drawn up and building work is due to start early in 2008. This Centre will house the €1.5M worth of equipment included in the EPSRC support.

We plan for the Centre to be an inclusive focus for national and international structural ceramics research based on a hub-and-spoke model with other universities. Already involved are Cambridge, Oxford, Sheffield and Manchester in the UK, Penn State, Santa Barbara, Urbana-Champaign in the USA, Nagoya Institute of Technology and University of Tokyo in Japan, Tsinghua in China, Bayreuth and ITU in Germany, Polytechnic of Turin in Italy and INSA Lyon in France. Links will be forged to international centres of excellence, including several US national laboratories, ISTEC Italy and the IDEA League in Europe.

An Industrial Consortium is planned, which will have significant input on the research programme. Many national and international companies including Rolls-Royce, DSTL, Boeing, NASA, Nexia Solutions, British Energy, Pilkington, Corus/Tata, Kerneos, Morgan Advanced Ceramics, Calcarb and Sintec-Keramik have already promised to participate in the Centre.

If you are interested in getting involved in the Centre in any way, such as by applying for one of the jobs to be advertised, research collaboration, a sabbatical visit to London, or membership of the Industrial Consortium, please contact Professor Bill Lee on w.e.lee@imperial.ac.uk or visitwww.imperial.ac.uk/structuralceramics.