Professor Andrew Goodwin has been awarded an Advanced Grant of £3.4M by the European Research Council (ERC) to fund a comprehensive multidisciplinary study of complex order in functional materials. These ERC grants are awarded for the most creative ideas that can have a major impact on science, society and the economy. They are highly sought after and aim to fund ground-breaking, high-risk projects led by principal investigators who are exceptional leaders in terms of the originality and significance of their research contributions.
Andrew Goodwin uses advanced diffraction and modelling techniques to investigate disordered materials and subsequently produce new, tailored materials that display unique properties. For example, most materials expand upon heating and shrink when compressed; however, Goodwin group research has discovered that by careful control of the disorder within the structure of a substance, the opposite can occur — materials will shrink upon heating (negative thermal expansion) and expand when compressed (negative linear compressibility). These processes are useful in the design of heat-resistant materials, advanced pressure sensors, artificial muscles and body armour.
The new five-year ERC research project aims to understand and exploit complex order in functional materials. Its fundamental objective is to lay the foundations for understanding how structural complexity can give rise to materials properties inaccessible to structurally-simple states. The long-term vision is a paradigm shift in the way that chemists design materials — the “Complexity Revolution” — in which chemists move to thinking beyond the unit cell and introduce unconventional structural features to produce materials with entirely novel behaviour.
The project will establish how complexity can be controllably introduced into materials by varying their chemical composition and synthesis, how the complex states might then be characterised, and how this complexity can be exploited to design a new generation of materials with unprecedented electronic, catalytic, photonic, information storage, dielectric, topological, and magnetic properties.