2 December 2022
Cambridge’s Rachel Oliver awarded Royal Academy of Engineering Chair in Emerging Technologies
Professor Rachel Oliver of the University of Cambridge’s Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy has been awarded a Royal Academy of Engineering Chair in Emerging Technologies. The award is worth £2.5m over ten years to develop emerging technologies with high potential to deliver economic and social benefits to the UK.
Funded by the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Chair in Emerging Technologies scheme aims to identify global research visionaries and provide them with long-term support, enabling them to focus on strategic approaches for taking their technology from the bench to the boardroom.
Oliver is a Fellow of Robinson College and director of the Cambridge Centre for Gallium Nitride. Creating porosity in gallium nitride (GaN) vastly extends the range of materials properties achievable. By controlling the porosity, engineers can select the properties they need to create new device concepts or to improve existing products.
Oliver’s aim is to create a set of materials fabrication processes that control the structure and properties of porous GaN. Alongside this, she will develop a modelling toolbox for designing new devices. By developing new devices and embedding porous GaN in the UK’s compound semiconductor industry, Oliver hopes to drive this emerging materials platform towards widespread industrial adoption.
Potential applications are wide-ranging. Developing the use of UV LEDs for disinfection would give healthcare professionals new weapons in the fight against viral epidemics and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Work on micro-displays using micro-LEDs could improve augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) headsets. As well as providing immersive experiences for gamers, this technology could be used by organizations for more effective online collaboration. By reducing the need for business travel, the ecological benefits could be significant.
“The Academy places huge importance on supporting excellence in engineering, and often the key to engineers fulfilling their potential in tackling global challenges is the gift of time and continuity of support to bring the most disruptive and impactful ideas to fruition,” says professor Sir Jim McDonald FREng FRSE, president of the Royal Academy of Engineering.