Interfaces Newsletter January 2020

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Welcome to Interfaces, the newsletter from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Sheffield. Every month, we’ll bring you news from the world of Materials, from us and elsewhere, and how discoveries made through the years affect our lives today.

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MSE Staff to advise Governement

Two nuclear engineers from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, who are renowned around the world for their research and expertise on nuclear waste, have been appointed to HM Government’s Advisory Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM).

Dr Claire Corkhill and Professor Neil Hyatt

Professor Neil Hyatt and Dr Claire Corkhill – from the University of Sheffield Energy Institute and Immobilisation Science Laboratory – have many years’ experience of developing and evaluating solutions for the long-term safe storage of waste materials generated by the world’s nuclear industry.

CoRWM is an independent body that actively scrutinises and advises ministers of the UK government, and devolved administrations, on the plans and programmes for long-term management of higher activity radioactive wastes.

In England and Wales, this also includes the geological disposal of radioactive wastes in a deep, purpose-built engineered facility. Members are appointed by, and report to, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, on behalf of the UK government and devolved administrations.

Dr Corkhill, Reader in Nuclear Materials Corrosion at the University of Sheffield, said: “Resolving the issue of how we deal with radioactive wastes, now and in the long-term, is an important environmental protection project. We have accumulated nuclear waste for over 70 years, and while this material is safe and secure in the short term, existing storage arrangements are inadequate for long-term disposal.

“We have a duty to establish suitable disposal facilities for the waste already generated, and that which is still to come. Given the 100,000 years or more that these wastes will remain hazardous, it is crucial that we don’t leave the problem to be solved by future generations.”

Professor Hyatt, Professor of Radioactive Waste Management at the University of Sheffield, added: “This is an exciting time to be joining CoRWM, with the process for siting the UK’s Geological Disposal Facility underway. We are looking forward to bringing our expertise, and working with the Committee, to support the development of policy and strategy for the safe long-term management of the UK radioactive waste inventory.”

Internationally recognised as leaders in their field, Professor Hyatt and Dr Corkhill are part of the University of Sheffield Energy Institute, which is finding low-carbon solutions to some of the world’s biggest energy challenges.

The Energy Institute carries out energy research across a wide spectrum of fields, including renewable, nuclear and conventional energy generation, energy storage, energy use and carbon capture, utilisation and storage technology. Its multi- and interdisciplinary research teams work with industry and government on sustainable solutions.

Research into nuclear energy is one of the institute’s strengths, with its academics conducting world leading research to ensure nuclear power can generate electricity safely, securely and sustainably.

Professor Derek Sinclair receives prestigious RSC award

Professor Derek Sinclair, Professor of Materials Chemistry in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, has been named as the recipient of the Peter Day Award by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Professor Derek Sinclair

Professor Derek Sinclair, Professor of Materials Chemistry in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, has been named as the recipient of the Peter Day Award by the Royal Society of Chemistry. The award is presented for outstanding contributions to, and advancement of, the field of materials chemistry of continuous lattice solids. Specifically, Professor Sinclair was recognised for his work in the application of impedance spectroscopy to understanding the defect chemistry and functional properties of oxides.

This work contributes to the advancement of multilayered ceramic capacitors – components that are essential to the operation of the majority of electronic appliances and instruments in use today, from mobile phones to washing machines, cars to supercomputers.

This honour comes with an associated lecture tour, so Professor Sinclair has been delivering lectures on his work at four venues around the country, and will be presented with his award at the final lecture in the Department of Chemistry at the St Andrews University on 27th May 2020.

Professor Sinclair received BSc (Hons) Chemistry and PhD degrees from Aberdeen University and was a lecturer at the School of Materials, Leeds University (1993-94) and the Chemistry Department, Aberdeen University (1994-99) prior to moving to Sheffield in 1999.

His research contribution includes elucidating structure-composition-property relationships in a variety of material types with particular expertise in chemical doping (and distribution) to manipulate the defect chemistry and conduction mechanisms of perovskite-based oxides for energy applications. The range of functionality has spanned from polar dielectrics, incipient ferroelectrics, thermoelectrics, high temperature superconductors to mixed ionic/electronic conductors and solid electrolytes. Device applications include; multilayer ceramic capacitors, thermoelectric generators and solid oxide fuel cells.  

An expertise of the group is to use impedance spectroscopy to characterise the electrical microstructures of heterogeneous electroceramics that contain (via dopant and/or defect segregation) core-shell intra-grain architectures and/or Schottky-barrier dominated grain boundaries/surface layers. Recent efforts (in collaboration with Dr Julian Dean at Sheffield) include simulation of impedance spectroscopy data from conventional and micro-probe contact electrodes on heterogeneous microstructures to provide a more complete understanding of current flow on both an average and local scale.  

He works with industry and a Knowledge Transfer Project with AVX Ltd (Coleraine, NI) led to a new range of BaTiO3-based Multilayer Ceramic Capacitors.

MAPP Conference 2020

MAPP, the future manufacturing hub in Manufacture using Advanced Powder Processes, is delighted to announce its Second International Conference.

The University of Sheffield led hub is holding the event from 1st-2nd June 2020 at Milton Hill House, Oxford, the two days will cover three key themes:

  • Right First Time Manufacturing and Future Manufacturing Technologies
  • From in-process monitoring and control to in-service prediction and performance
  • Tailored properties for enhanced product performance

Confirmed keynote speakers include:

  • Prof. Helena Van Swygenhoven, EPFL  
  • Dr Aaron Stebner, Colorado School of Mines
  • Dr Katy Milne, MTC
  • Dr Iuliia Elizarova, Imperial College
  • Prof. Richard Todd, University of Oxford

The invitation to submit presentation and poster abstracts is open. The deadline for abstract submissions is 31st January 2020.

MAPP’s First International Conference, in January 2018, was hailed a resounding success attracting 180 delegates and featuring keynotes from world-leading experts – including MAPP Scientific Advisory Board Chair Professor Tresa Pollock.  The event attracted delegates and speakers from America, France, Germany, Spain and across the UK, with representatives from over 35 companies and 20 universities. 

Tickets at an Early Bird rate are available until Friday 14th February 2020.

There are a limited number of student bursaries available (which will cover the delegate fee and one night’s accommodation). The deadline for bursary applications is 31st January 2020.For more information visit

Student voice – why materials?

Our ROSE (Recruitment, Outreach and Student Experience) Co-ordinator, Amanda Southworth, has been chatting to some of our first years about why they chose Materials and why they chose Sheffield. With this information we can help to engage with more prospective students in the future and make sure that Sheffield continues to be a fantastic place to study.

What made you want to come to Sheffield?

“It’s a nice balance, the accommodation has a village feel, there’s stuff to do in the city and then there’s the peak district. You can just get away from the city if you need to.”

“The interview day made it, it was friendly and you felt like people wanted you to be there and were interested in what you wanted to say.”

“I liked the look of the department, there looked like there was a lot of support if you needed it, and I think here they really prepare you for jobs, you’re not in a bubble just learning it, when you graduate you are ready for a career, you go into a company knowing what you are doing, I really liked that.”

“When I looked at Sheffield the degree had a research aspect to it, so that made me want to come to Sheffield because I was thinking that maybe I’ll see if I’m interested in research.”

“I liked the actual city – its real mellow; it’s not like ‘party city’, it’s good for studying. I wanted somewhere north because I want to meet new people.”

Art is an essential pART of science

Betül Aldemir Dikici, a PhD Candidate in Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering Group, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, looks at how art can help to illustrate and explain scientific research.

Graphical abstract figure drawn by Betül for her research on development of a novel guided bone regeneration membrane, published on Materials (

As researchers, when we explore something, we are passionate about sharing it in a way that would be received more easily. We learn through story-telling. We write articles; we do presentations. And visual materials: photography, microscopy images, basic sketches, detailed illustrations, 3D models, are often the best narrators of our research.

The medical illustration showing the anatomical features of pelvic floor created by Betül for the study published in Nature Reviews Urology (

For me, art has always been something that I could not have enough time for and could not live without. After graduating from bioengineering, when I started to do research, I was asked to create basic illustrations for posters, grant proposals, and publications (thankfully!). At that moment, I realised that I didn’t have to choose only one of my passions – science and art: I could combine them!

Science is a creative process like art, and art is an intellectual process like science. Both require commitment, imagination, critical thinking, design, and technical skills. And both are needed equally.

When I had a chance to visit Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a visiting PhD student with Battelle Fellowship, I realised that one of the best representations of this approach is the lovely motto of MIT: “Mens et Manus”: “Mind and Hand” in Latin and complementary to this message is the depiction of a craftsman at the anvil and the scholar with a book on the MIT seal.

Medical and scientific illustrations are effective ways of conveying certain information to an observer by visual communication. Illustrations are generally used for articles, journal and book covers, atlases, education of the patients or advertisement purposes. Nowadays, there are as many digital techniques as traditional hard copy drawing methods, enabling real-time manipulation with endless tools. Created visual materials often have equal, if not more informative content than just text. Even a single frame may illustrate an anatomy, a medical problem, a proposed solution/design, and the treatment all at the same time.

(Dali’s Crumpet) Multi-colour false scanning electron image Betül created from the original black-white image. Comparison of original and processed images strongly emphasizes the power of the colour on electron microscopy images. Last one is the multi-colour false scanning electron image
(Recreation) she created this image and won the Department of Materials Science and Engineering 2019 Image Competition, in the category of Biomaterials, and The University of Sheffield, Faculty of Engineering Photography Competition, category of “The Future of Engineering”.

An image captured and improved by Betül won the Nature Reviews Rheumatology Cover Image Competition. The image will be used as a Cover of Nature Reviews Rheumatology throughout 2020. (Image of a bone tissue engineering scaffold implanted in a femur defect model)

I use Adobe Photoshop to create my illustrations. After defining the problem and the message that needs to be expressed, I create a folder full of reference images and videos for creating my first sketch. If my drawing is about an operation and if I have a chance, I try to attend a real operation. It definitely helps me to understand the procedure and the anatomy better.

There are some illustrations that I need to spend weeks to research, but I can draw them in just a few days. If I am happy with the sketch, I give colour to the drawing. Then, the most important part is to know where to stop. After a certain point, when the illustration is in its best version, you start ruining it. Luckily, we have “control+Z”! By now, I have created many illustrations for my own and my colleague’s publications. The most rewarding moment is when you see that your illustrations are finally published and have a home!

Research in brief

We’ve been talking to a number of our academic and research staff about their research interests, and asking them to summarise it in just a couple of minutes. Over the coming issues, we’ll share these videos with you.

First in the series is Dr Lucy Smith, who worked across the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and the Management School, looking at Materials Sustainability, and the monitoring and benchmarking of the impact of different materials to inform strategic decision making.

Keep your eyes peeled for further research insights.

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