Functional materials

Functional materials have physical and chemical properties that are sensitive to a change in their environment: for instance, they might depend on temperature, pressure, electric field, magnetic field and optical wavelength. As a consequence of this sensitivity, which can be exploited in everyday devices and sensors, research into new classes of materials with novel properties as well as that aimed at improving the properties of existing materials is very active.

One key class of materials in CCMMP research is the complex metal oxides, including the ferroelectric BaTiO3, the multiferroic BiFeO3, the piezoelectric PbZrxTi1-xO3, the magnetic field sensor La1-xCaxMnO3, the surface acoustic wave sensor LiNbO3, and high temperature superconductors based on the copper oxide perovskites or iron arsenide pnictides. We also work with hybrid metal-organic materials and organic electronics. Our focus is on understanding the relationship between the structures and properties, which is extremely important as an input parameter to the search for functional materials. We primarily use advanced spectroscopic techniques, including muon spectroscopy and neutron and X-ray scattering, to understand the relationship between the experimentally tuneable parameters and the material properties. Key areas that we investigate include:

  • The coupling of ferroelectricity to (anti)ferromagnetism in multiferroic materials (Dr Drew, Dr Phillips, Prof. Dove)
  • Heterostructures involving materials with competing order parameters (Dr Drew)
  • Metal-organic frameworks, including host-guest interactions (Dr Phillips, Prof. Dove, Dr Drew)
  • The coexistence and coupling of magnetic correlations with superconductivity in the iron pnictides (Dr Drew)
  • Anomalous thermodynamic properties, including negative thermal expansion and softening under pressure (Prof. Dove, Dr Phillips)
  • Electro-optical materials (Dr Kreouzis, Prof. Gillin)