The stuff that matters: new materials science

For nearly 150 years, materials scientists have been guided by a basic yet powerful tool: the periodic table. This century will see the cross pollination of knowledge from physics, chemistry, biology and engineering, brought together by materials scientists to build the Periodic Hypertable. Progress in simulation and standardisation brings with it a remarkable range of opportunities for designing exotic material systems, but with those opportunities comes the challenge of increasing complexity.



Shelly’s group combines both theory and experiment to make new materials and devices. Prior to joining Imperial as a Lecturer in 2011, Michelle spent 5 years developing III-nitride semiconductors as an independent Oppenheimer Research Fellow and Jesus College Research Fellow at the Departments of Materials Science and Physics at the University of Cambridge.


Parts of developing world suffer from an acute shortage of clean drinking water. Aspects of my research lab seek to design new materials that can enable us to make low voltage, off-grid, affordable, robust UV water sterilization devices. I am interested in the following questions:

  • Are there new materials which are better UV emitters than those we already have?
  • How can we use these materials in devices for UV emission?
  • How can we most effectively use the light from these devices to treat dirty water?

We’re looking at new materials systems, building on a wealth of research in neighbouring areas in search of the best UV emitter; by choosing the right materials we can vastly improve the efficiency and overall output of our devices. With this is mind, we are also developing methods to optimise system design whilst minimising cost and complexity. The prospect of access to affordable home-scale water treatment throughout the world becomes is just a step away from realisation.

Dr Michelle Moram’s predictions from 2013




Throughout the next 20 years

There would be progressive filling of ‘white space’ in the Periodic-Hyper-Table , through gains in new knowledge as a result of experimentation and understanding of how nanostructuring affects material’s properties.

2014 Nanomaterial outsmarts ions: Novel types of electronic components made of graphene, ScienceDaily

2014 Theorists predict new forms of exotic insulating materials, MIT News

Beyond next 20 years

We will find new materials to unlock quantum computing

2013 How Supercomputers Will Yield a Golden Age of Materials Science, Scientific American

2013 New material for quantum computing discovered out of the blue, Science Daily

Beyond next 20 years

In turn, quantum computing will enable powerful simulations of complex material structures and the prediction of their properties


Beyond next 20 years

Emergence of Engineering Clinics, offering designer materials with tailor made properties on-demand


Foresight and futures work

2033: Tech Foresight
20 years

Profile Credits

Foresight Development: Alex Ayad, Chris Haley, Ali Salehi-Reyani, Smarties 

Video: Alex Ayad, Eleanor Harding, Tom Walker, Consider Creative