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Driscoll Research Group


Scaleable Ultralow Power Memory through Materials Innovation – Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) Research Chair in Emerging Technologies

To reduce the energy consumption from conventional computer memory, we need to develop new and more energy-efficient technologies, see also the overview here. With the funding of Prof. Driscoll's RAEng chair, we work on oxide thin films to realise resistive memory devices, where information is stored in the resistance of a thin film, instead of the charge on a terminal. The three main paths we are following to optimise oxide thin films are the separation of ionic and electronic conduction, the replacement of transition metals, and a control of the amount of oxygen vacancies.

Lead group members: Dr. Ming Xiao, Thomas Sun

Efficient and Robust Oxide Switching (EROS) – ERC Advanced Grant

The aim of this project is achieving stable and repeatable resistive switching in industry-compatible oxide thin films such as HfO2. To minimise switching variability, we optimise film properties such as ionic and electronic conduction or ferroelectricity, so that the resistive switching does not rely on complex redox processes in the films and their interfaces.

Development of uniform, low power, high density resistive memory by vertical interface and defect design – ECCS-EPSRC Collaborative Grant

In this project, in collaboration with Purdue University, the University at Buffalo, and Los Alamos National Lab, we work on precision-engineering vertically aligned nano-composite oxide thin films to tune their properties for resistive memory applications. Amongst others, such properties include pre-defined electronic or ionic conduction paths, strain, or ferroelectricity.

Project homepage – Lead group members: Dr. Markus Hellenbrand

In-situ and operando synchrotron X-ray spectroscopy for characterising growth and performance of oxide switching memory – Herchel Smith Postdoctoral Fellowship

This work focuses on the investigation of oxide switching thin films for low-power memory using in-situ and operando X-ray microscopy and spectroscopy. Techniques such as X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, X-ray absorption spectroscopy, and hard X-ray nanoprobe microscopy allow us probe local chemical and structural changes in oxide thin film during device operation. By doing so, we can better understand the mechanisms that limit switching performance allowing us to optimize thin film growth and device design.

Lead group members: Dr. Megan Hill

Designing ionic-conductor ferroelectric oxide heterostructures for superior resistive switching - Swiss National Science Foundation

Ionic conduction and ferroelectricity can both give rise to resistive switching, and both mechanisms can co-exist within a single oxide thin film. We aim to understand and optimise their interplay to optimise the total resistive switching properties of the underlying films.

Lead group members: Dr. Nives Štrkalj

Industrially compatible resistive switching – Industry partners

In the end, we will need industry partners to transfer our optimised switching flims. To make sure that we stay on track for that, we collaborate with different companies. HfO2 is among the most widely used materials in semiconductor industry and with appropriate fabrication conditions, it can be made ferroelectric. In this project, we investigate epitaxial HfO2 to understand the exact mechanisms, which lead to the stabilisation of its ferroelectric phases.

Lead group members: Max Becker

BeMAGIC – European Union Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme

BeMAGIC is a joint academic-industrial interdisciplinary training programme for young researchers. In Cambridge, we work on the development of novel 3D-structured flexible multiferroics based on filling mesoporous magnetostrictive oxides with ferroelectric polymers for magnetoelectric (ME) applications. The project includes fabricating ME vertically aligned nanocomposite (VAN) thin films, the assessment of the ferroelectric and ME performance, and modelling the strain and ME properties of these devices.

BeMAGIC homepage – Lead group members: Muireann de h-Óra

EPISTORE – European Union Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme

Advanced thin film technology has enabled a wide range of technological breakthroughs that have transformed entire sectors (e.g. electronics and lighting) by the implementation of outstanding nanoscale phenomena. The EPISTORE project aims to revolutionize the energy storage sector,  in particular for offshore power generation and transport applications. This will be achieved by developing thin film reversible Solid Oxide Cells (TF-rSOCs) which will be stacked to give pocket-sized devices capable of delivering kW of power, alongside efficient long-term storage of renewable energy. Nanoscale breakthroughs and never explored materials will be combined in revolutionary TF-rSOCs giving rise to radically new ultracompact and fast response Power-to-Gas and Power-to-Power storage solutions with superior performance (hydrogen production of 10kg/l per hour and specific power of 2.5kW/kg).

Lead group members: Dr. Matt Wells

100 K High Temperature Superconductor Films with Low Electric Anisotropy – Leverhulme Trust

CuBa2Ca3Cu4Ox is a relatively unknown cuprate superconductor with remarkable properties including a critical temperature over 116 K and a low anisotropy parameter. However, this material has so far only been created under high pressure synthesis or using poisonous thallium doping. In this project we seek to make thin films of CuBa2Ca3Cu4Ox without either high pressure or thallium and instead using strain-controlled and liquid assisted growth.

Lead group members: John Feighan

FutureCat – The Faraday Institution

In this project, we work on thin-film lithium-ion battery cathode materials. In particular, we deposit high voltage cathodes on different crystal orientations and study their electrochemical, kinetic, and diffusion characteristics. With this, we want to find the limiting factors for cycling stability and then use different coating materials to enhance its electrochemical properties and cycling stability.

Lead group members: Dr. Debasis Nayak

Improving pinning properties and growth rates of REBCO thin films – SuNAM Co. Ltd.

This project is aimed at improving the pinning properties of rare-earth barium copper oxide (REBCO) thin films by adding artificial pinning centres or rare earth components. Furthermore, we are trying to increase the growth rate of these films by implementing the reactive co-evaporation by a deposition and reaction (RCE-DR) process developed by SuNAM via pulsed laser deposition.

Lead group members: May Hsim Lai

Development of REBCO Coated Conductors for high field magnet applications – EPSRC, collaboration with Tokamak Energy Ltd.

In a parallel project on REBCO films, we work on improving the performance of these films in the temperature and field regime required by the magnet systems of high-field compact spherical tokamaks. This is done through the addition of non-superconducting secondary phase material to enhance the flux pinning capabilities of these films. We also study the potential for predicting the low-temperature and high magnetic field performance of a thin film from measurements at higher temperatures and low magnetic fields to enable rapid quality assessment of commercial films for high field magnet applications.

Lead group members: Tom Bedford

Optimised interfaces for solid state batteries – UKRI EPSRC grant for academic achievements

Reducing interfacial resistances between solid electrodes and electrolytes is essential to enable the fast charge/discharge of solid-state Li batteries and prevent this interface from becoming the rate limiting step for lithium migration. Yet the scientific study of such solid-solid interfaces remains challenging as effective characterisation techniques for probing buried interfaces are lacking, and it is very difficult to expose the interface without potentially damaging it. The development of vertically aligned nanocomposite (VAN) systems with high interfacial areas that are surface accessible are a viable candidate for model battery studies, whilst also incorporating a nano 3D architectures, which enhance the interfacial surface areas between cathode, electrolyte and anode leading to higher total battery currents, ensuring high current and power capabilities.

Lead group members: Adam Lovett