A Midlands-based industry and academia research project has been awarded a £250,000 grant to explore game-changing methods of radically reducing energy consumption across the technical ceramics industry.
The project at the Warwick Manufacturing Group at the University of Warwick has been awarded a two-year grant by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) New Horizons fund, which supports high-risk, high-reward research. The project will involve Lucideon.
Led by Dr Claire Dancer and Professor Louis Piper of the Warwick Manufacturing Group and involving Dr David Pearmain of Lucideon, the project aims to reduce the energy consumed in sintering – a key manufacturing process for ceramic components - which traditionally requires high temperatures and thus creates a barrier to using ceramics in batteries and other devices.
By replacing the use of heat with additive substances that convert to metals at room temperature, the research could drastically alter the amount of energy needed in sintering, which accounts for up to 90% of the lifetime energy consumption of a ceramic component.
The new method could also open-up ceramics for use in safer fourth-generation Li-metal batteries, and in a wide variety of applications, from improved medical imaging to communications systems.
Claire Dancer, Reader at the University of Warwick said: "It's fantastic to be awarded this funding by EPSRC, particularly their recognition that the work we are doing on lowering energy use in the ceramic industry is at the cutting edge of adventurous research to manufacture devices such as solid state batteries and metamaterials.
"Working collaboratively with Lucideon has strengthened our ceramic processing research programme at WMG, University of Warwick considerably, and their support of this project is a key factor in our success."
The £250,000 grant is part of a£15 million investment allocated to 77 transformative projects this year from the EPSRC, part of UK Research and Innovation, through the New Horizons initiative.
Business Manager for Flash Sintering Technology at Lucideon, Dr David Pearmain, said: “Investment in high-risk high-reward research can reap significant rewards that have a transformative impact on many aspects of our lives.
"This collaborative research project between the team at the University of Warwick and Lucideon has the potential to revolutionise the manufacturing processes of technical ceramics, driving down energy use and creating an array of opportunities for new components and products.
"It also reflects the values of the Midlands Industrial Ceramics Group (MICG), which is paving the way for projects that bring together academia and industry in a bid to drive innovation."
At the heart of the project is Lucideon's multi-million-pound flash sintering technology - developed with six-figure support from the Regional Growth Fund. Flashing sintering works by applying an electric field to a material at specific temperatures – and Lucideon is the only facility in the world to have the capability for the technology at a manufacturing scale. Tony Kinsella, Lucideon's CEO, said: "This is exciting research, which could deliver significant changes to ceramic production.
"Applying science and technology expertise to address major global issues and innovation is woven into our whole DNA. We are taking great strides in advanced materials, building on our historic expertise in ceramics to focus firmly on new opportunities in high-growth, innovative sectors."