School of Chemical Engineering and Advanced Materials

Advanced Materials

Advanced Materials

We work on a wide range of materials topics including new material development, optimising of materials processing, testing and evaluation at component scale and at high spatial resolution, modelling and failure analysis.

Every article, instrument, machine or device we use depends for its success upon materials, design and effective production.

Much of our work is related to materials and processes for renewable energy generation, energy efficiency, carbon capture and storage. We also use biological and bio-inspired processes to develop new functional materials.


The Advanced Materials group consists of 5 members of staff:

  • Professor Steve Bull -  Cookson Group Chair of Materials Engineering (Group Head). High spatial resolution mechanics, Development and testing of compliant and porous materials and Sustainable materials use.
  • Dr Alasdair Charles - Corrosion and electrochemistry of alloys used in the power-generating industry and in pipeline systems, High temperature measurements of pH and potential and Environment assisted cracking from hydrogen embrittlement through to corrosion fatigue.
  • Dr Katarina Novakovic - Chemical systems that exhibit oscillatory behaviour in pH and reaction heat output and their applications to smart materials.
  • Professor Mark Thomas - Gas separation, purification and storage using hemilabile and switchable metal organic framework materials, polymers, cage materials and carbon molecular sieves. Functional hollow fibre adsorbent materials with a self-Regulating composite outer layer for gas purification with energy efficient electrothermal regeneration.
  • Dr Lidija Siller - Reader in Nanoscale Science and Technology. Physics and chemistry at solid surfaces, Optical, electronic and structural properties of nanoscale materials and Electron and photon stimulated desorption in ices.


Since 2008 we have:

  • won over £3M in research funding from EPSRC, EU and industry
  • published more than 90 papers in refereed journals and conference proceedings
  • graduated more than 20 PhD students
  • delivered more than 40 invited, keynote and plenary talks at international conferences including most recently a plenary at Nanoscale Multilayers, Madrid 2013 (Bull)

Prof Steve Bull is the 2013 recipient of the Tribology Silver Medal presented by the Tribology Trust. This is the top national award in this area.

Current research projects

Nanoscale optoelectronics (Siller)

We are developing exciting new processes to form nano-diamonds. These have important applications as biological markers as a result of their unique optical properties.

Functionalised nanoparticles (Bull, Siller)

Nanoparticles are used in a wide range of products – all the way from cosmetics to water treatment in developing countries. We design nanoparticles with novel properties to improve, for example, sunblocks or lubricants.

Property modelling (Bull)

We take our understanding of behaviour at the atomic level and use it to create models which describe relationships between the structure of a material and its properties. This work has been used in the design of real products such as energy efficient solar-control coatings and self cleaning glazings.

Materials for energy systems (Bull, Charles)

We are developing new materials for use in renewable energy generation. We use our knowledge of material failure mechanisms to help improve the design of long life plant for tidal power generation and carbon capture and storage systems.

Carbon capture and utilisation via catalysis (Siller)

We are developing inorganic catalysts for carbon capture, utilisation and storage through ex-situ mineralisation. The purpose is to find permanent storage of CO2 with minimal energy input and accelerate the rates of the CO2 capture.

Recycling and waste management (Bull)

We are looking at methods to reuse/recycle difficult materials such as glass fibre-reinforced polyester composites and rare earth magnets. We are developing novel methods to extract new and replacement raw materials using low energy processes.

Biomaterial engineering (Bull, Novakovic)

Engineering of novel biomaterials has the potential to deliver exciting future technologies. We are currently working on materials for orthopaedics and biosensors.

Soft matter (Bull, Novakovic)

Soft matter is a generic term for a range of materials with low compliance such as polymers, foams, emulsions and colloids and biological materials. It is characterized by multi component mixtures, large ranges of length and time scales and many interacting degrees of freedom, leading to complex structures, phase behaviour and dynamics. We are working on dynamic functional polymer systems, organic electronics and novel foams based on polyHIPEs for impact resistance and tissue scaffolds.

Key facilities

  • Nanoindentation facilities for high spatial resolution mechanical testing
  • Sensitive mechanical test frames for biomaterial assessment
  • Test frames for environmentally assisted cracking
  • Range of tribological testers (scratch, pin-on-disc, abrasion, galling, twin disc rolling-sliding and components scale tests)
  • X-ray photoemission spectroscopy