Leeds research boosts piezoelectric for high temp operations
University of Leeds spin-out company, Ionix Advanced Technologies, have received funding from IP Group to accelerate the commercialisation of a range of devices based on high-temperature piezoelectric materials developed by Leeds.
Piezoelectric technology is already being integrated in a range of applications including SONAR, industrial sensors, and ultrasound scans in pregnancy. However, piezoelectric devices have been previously known to be vulnerable to extremes such as high temperatures and pressures.
Professor Andrew Bell, from the University's School of Process, Environmental and Materials Engineering (SPEME), headed the research to overcome the said vulnerability. He said, "Our materials work in environments where the conventional technology fails: high temperatures, high pressures, extreme shocks and high stress. In a gas turbine, for instance, if you want to put in a sensor to make sure nothing is going wrong, you need a piezoelectric material that can withstand extremely high temperatures, pressures or vibrations."
Together with Professor Bell, the materials developed by Dr. Tim Comyn and Dr. Tim Stevenson are compatible with existing manufacturing methods for piezoelectric ceramics and can thus be mass-produced at similar cost to current materials. Its potential market in industries such as aerospace, oil and gas and nuclear power, estimated at more than £500 million per annum.
The science behind the materials development is not any different. Physical changes to the piezoelectric material's crystal lattice create an electrical change or, conversely, create physical changes when an electrical current is applied. However, the new ceramics contain bismuth and iron that have a greatly increased tolerance.? Ionix is initially targeting applications where high temperature operation, up to 500°C, provides capabilities not offered by conventional devices.
The company has also announced the appointment of Dr. David Astles as its Chief Executive Officer. Dr Astles has a track-record of launching new products and technology in a wide range of industry sectors including chemical processing, oil and gas, lubricants, mining and refining.
"Ionix has developed a set of excellent products which offer a range of exciting potential opportunities. I look forward to working closely with the talented Ionix team to lead the company in the next stage of its commercial development. We are at the start of an exciting new phase in the implementation of this technology and are looking for the right partners to realise its potential," Dr. Astles said.
The research at Leeds was partly funded by two grants and a PhD studentship from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).