Functional ceramics and inorganics

Synthesis, characterisation and theoretical understanding of functional ceramic and inorganic materials. This research area includes electroceramics (including ferroelectric, multiferroic and piezoelectric materials), complex oxides, solid state materials chemistry, inorganic 2D materials, inorganic framework materials and porous materials. It does not include materials for energy applications, photonic, magnetic, superconducting, polymeric or composite materials or materials processing, which are covered by related areas.

During this Delivery Plan period, we will continue to support world-leading experimental and theoretical research in Functional Ceramics and Inorganics discovery and design, while maximising the impact of these activities. Advanced materials, including those covered by this research area, has transformative potential in economic, environmental and societal terms, and this area will make a significant and distinctive contribution to delivering against that key agenda. Research in this area is central to addressing current and future national challenges related to sustainability and resource efficiency.

To achieve such impact, we expect increased levels of collaboration between fundamental research in Functional Ceramics and Inorganics and complementary investments and areas (e.g. Synthetic Coordination Chemistry, Synthetic Supramolecular Chemistry, Condensed Matter - Electronic Structure, and Condensed Matter - Magnetism and Magnetic Materials). In addition, following the large capital investment in the Sir Henry Royce Institute, researchers should exploit this capability; any further investment should be complementary to this, to avoid duplication and maximise benefits.

Advanced materials is highlighted as a major cross-cutting theme in terms of the EPSRC Outcomes. To achieve these Outcomes, links should be developed between researchers in this area and those in application-driven areas (e.g. Radio Frequency and Microwave Devices, Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering, Microelectronics Device Technology, and Materials Engineering - Ceramics, Composites, Metals and Alloys).

We encourage ambitious projects that address the challenges identified by the Advanced Materials Leadership Council (AMLC) where they align with our priorities. AMLC themes relevant to researchers in this community are: Materials for Functional Systems, Design of Materials and Processes, Materials for Communications and Electronics, and Materials for Demanding Environments.


The importance of advanced materials was recognised by the formation of the AMLC and the UK has an opportunity to make a significant contribution. A number of the key materials highlighted (e.g. piezoelectric ceramics and advanced nanomaterials) fall within this research area, therefore alignment between investments in this area and the challenges identified are expected and encouraged. (Evidence source 1-8)

Specifically, fundamental understanding of complex inorganic materials (e.g. ferroics/ferroelectrics, magnetism, bulk materials and oxide and non-oxide thin films) and their synthesis is a UK strength. So too are materials modelling and simulation. (Evidence source 1)

There is strong, growing industry interest in UK university-based research and development and the area is seen as business-critical in a range of sectors, including energy, chemicals, engineering, manufacturing, automotive and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). Links with these should be strengthened and further exploited. (Evidence source 9)

Research activity in this area is geographically diverse and provides opportunities across all career stages, including in support for and development of research/community leaders. Students in this area are trained through our Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs), Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) and Industrial Collaborative Awards in Science and Engineering (CASE) studentship, providing a healthy balance that should be maintained. (Evidence source 10)

Researchers make use of large facilities such as Diamond Light Source and the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source. Mid-range facilities are also relevant, especially for characterisation and structural analysis of advanced functional materials. For continued success in materials modelling and simulation, access to High Performance Computing facilities is necessary. The Advanced Research Computing High End Resource (ARCHER) is accessible through routes such as the Materials Chemistry Consortium (MCC). A Tier 2 Hub in Materials and Molecular Modelling also provides capability. (Evidence source 10)

This is considered to be a cross-cutting area for a number of EPSRC Outcomes and relevant to the following Ambitions:

R4: Manage resources efficiently and sustainably

New Functional Ceramics and Inorganics have potential to be a substitute for materials containing toxic and/or rare elements.

H5: Advance non-medicinal interventions

New Functional Ceramics and Inorganics could be used to produce antimicrobial surfaces.

H3: Optimise diagnosis and treatment

Development of new sensors and diagnostic and imaging technologies will require the use of new Functional Ceramics and Inorganics.

C3: Deliver intelligent technologies and systems

New Functional Ceramics and Inorganics will help deliver next-generation sensors and energy-efficient devices.

P1: Introduce the next generation of innovative and disruptive technologies

Research in this area will provide the ability to find materials of whatever functional class that are required both now and those that will be valuable in future, as other functions become important beyond those that are currently in focus.

  1. EPSRC, Materially Better: Ensuring the UK is at the Forefront of Materials Science (PDF), (2013).
  2. European Science Foundation (ESF), Materials for Key Enabling Technologies (PDF), (2011).
  3. Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN), Advanced Materials Landscape Study, (2015).
  4. EPSRC, New Materials for RF and Microwave Technologies (PDF), (2014).
  5. Chemical Sciences and Society Summit (CS3), Efficient Utilization of Elements (PDF), (2013).
  6. Government Office for Science, Technology and Innovation Futures: UK Growth Opportunities for the 2020s (PDF), (2012 refresh).
  7. McKinsey & Company, Disruptive Technologies: Advances That Will Transform Life, Business, and the Global Economy, (2013).
  8. AMLC, Vision papers, (2016).
  9. EPSRC, Sovereign Capability Report, (2015).
  10. EPSRC data analysis of coding, large grants, fellowships and knowledge maps.

Research area connections

This diagram shows the top 10 connections between Research Areas within the EPSRC research portfolio. The depth of the segment relates to value of grants and the width of the segment relates to the number of grants shared by those two Research Areas. Please click to see the related Research Area rationale.

Visualising our Portfolio (VoP)
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EPSRC support by research area in Functional ceramics and inorganics (GoW)
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Contact Details

In the following table, contact information relevant to the page. The first column is for visual reference only. Data is in the right column.

Name: Caitlin McAuley
Organisation: EPSRC