Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Materials engineering – ceramics

Understanding, modelling and processing ceramics with respect to the properties, performance, behaviour and development of novel materials.

Partners involved:
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

The scope and what we're doing

This area encompasses understanding, modelling and processing ceramics with respect to the properties and material behaviour and development of novel materials.

We will support world-class materials expertise which underpins sustainable growth aligned to key sectors, such as aerospace, defence and energy (for example ceramics for high-temperature and high-pressure applications). This will require the community to establish and nurture interdisciplinary links addressing the microstructure-processing-performance triangle.

Research opportunities in this area will focus on reducing material demand through resource efficiency and reducing lead times to product development through greater understanding of the microstructure-processing-performance triangle.

We will work with the community to establish and nurture links with researchers and the manufacturing sector. This includes linking to the manufacturing technologies research area and focusing on the circular economy. It is also about reducing energy demand for material production, and challenges surrounding reusing or recycling ceramics. Technology transfer and uptake must be ensured while maintaining a healthy research base.

Bringing together advances in modelling and experimentation

There is a significant opportunity to bring together advances in modelling and experimentation to increase the rate of discovery and development of new materials. The community should work towards understanding these challenges and establishing solutions.

As technical ceramics use becomes more important (for example implantable devices, sensors, and both functional and structural ceramics for nuclear fusion reactor systems) it will be valuable to work closely with the manufacturing,energy, electronics and healthcare sectors. Ceramics for high-temperature and high-pressure applications remain strategically important, and ceramic matrix composites have the potential to be disruptive technologies in the aerospace and defence sectors.

We have three aims.

Support the community to connect UK research

We will do this through a cross-disciplinary approach, researching in response to the advanced materials strategy, and creating links with the Henry Royce Institute. A key challenge is to sustain and develop interdisciplinary relationships, enhancing a portfolio that addresses novel research at the interface between engineering, physical sciences and mathematical sciences.

Encourage research that links through to other areas

Examples include:

  • performance and inspection of mechanical structures and systems
  • manufacturing technologies
  • continuum mechanics
  • numerical analysis
  • functional ceramics and inorganics
  • materials for energy applications
  • nuclear fission
  • energy storage
  • resource efficiency
  • materials engineering – metals and alloys, and materials engineering –
  • composites.

Work with stakeholders to nurture talent

We want to provide the next generation of skilled researchers for the academic and industrial sectors in the UK, from PhD to early-career level. It is essential that this talent is nurtured and retained in later career stages, ensuring that academic expertise is preserved following the completion of studentships.

Why we're doing it

Funding in this area as a proportion of the EPSRC portfolio reduced over the last delivery plan, in line with strategy. This has led to the community identifying with and aligning itself to the key challenges within the discipline. Despite this relative reduction, there has been growth in training, as a result of the 2013 centre for doctoral training funding opportunity and an increase in universities’ doctoral training partnership allocations.

Our investments over the last delivery plan have enhanced this research area’s leading contribution to international research, chiefly through increased national partnerships. This has led to the community working collaboratively on a wide range of activities and has significantly improved its global standing – the level of impact achieved is high and the people pipeline has benefited. For example, UK academics have taken international leadership positions such as president of the American Ceramics Society, and industry (for example Morgan Advanced Materials and Element 6) has moved research back to the UK.

The formation of the Henry Royce Institute and critical innovation drivers such as the High Value Manufacturing Catapult will have a strong influence on the research landscape, so strategic alignment and integration across the landscape will be important.

Area contributes to strategic needs

This research area’s portfolio is industrially relevant. This is evidenced by industry recently moving some ceramics research back to the UK. But there is strong international competition, for example from Germany, China and the US. We recognise this research area’s contribution to national strategic needs, including industrial strategies for the defence, aerospace, electronics, energy and transport sectors. This research area has the potential to disrupt and transform these sectors and is critical to sustaining advanced materials research in the UK.

EPSRC and government interventions have significantly increased access to world-class facilities across the UK. Examples of EPSRC and government interventions include:

Recent investments will increase this further – for example, the Henry Royce Institute and the National Research Facility for Laboratory X-ray Computed Tomography.

Multidisciplinary research is substantial in this area, enabling researchers to address an array of associated challenges; over the last delivery plan, the trend has been towards collaborative research away from traditional areas. There are strong connections to other research areas and there is still a need to sustain and improve these links.

View evidence sources used to inform our research strategies.

Past projects, outcomes and impact

Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships. Find out more about research area connections and funding for materials engineering – ceramics.

Find previously funded projects on Grants on the Web.

Who to contact

Last updated: 22 December 2022

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