2018 James Joule Medal and Prize

Professor Ravi Silva of University of Surrey for his distinguished contributions to the development of carbon nanomaterials for use in cross-disciplinary advanced technology applications relevant to materials, optoelectronics and sustainable energy.

2018 James Joule Medal and Prize Ravi Silva

Professor Ravi Silva, Director of the University of Surrey’s multi-disciplinary Advanced Technology Institute incorporating more than 150 researchers, has contributed to the synthesis and understanding of carbon nanomaterials for advanced manufacturable technologies for the last 25 years.

Early in his career he produced the world’s first compositionally homogeneous single material superlattices with nanometre precision sp2/sp3 hybridised carbon displaying quantum-size effects based on layered diamond-like carbon thin films. The relationship of bond hybridisation on the microstructural and mechanical properties led him to propose (with IBM), the now ubiquitous online Raman tools for monitoring nanometre thick hard disk drive overcoats.

He noted the importance of nano-scale microstructure to the electrical and physical properties of nano-carbons as early as 1995, resulting in the design of energy-efficient carbon growth systems, that evolved to the world-leading Photo-Thermal Chemical Vapour Deposition (CVD) process for aligned carbon nanotube arrays used in next-generation microelectronics. The technology, spun-out by Surrey Nanosystems, gained worldwide attention with Vantablack™ – the blackest man-made material yet created.

Utilising carbon nanomaterials in hybrid structures allowed him to develop novel 4G organic–inorganic solar cells with efficiencies and dimensions applicable to today’s commercial market. Diverse collaborations, with DSTL, E.On, BAE Systems and Tata Steel, and through the EU projects SMARTONICS & CORNET, are maturing these technologies, while Leverhulme Trust support underpins hybrid organic–inorganic high-energy radiation detectors.

Recently, graphene combined with disordered sub-wavelength metal nanotexturing, produced broadband absorption enhancement from 15% to a near-perfect 99% through mid-IR to UV. These optical “moth eye” structures achieved true blackbody behaviour – a significant advancement in active sub-wavelength optical components. The announcement, in Science Advances, reached a billion outlets. For the manufacturing and aerospace sectors, his team have developed a proprietary low temperature CVD technique for graphene, suitable for steel corrosion barriers, and electrical coatings for structural CFRP and electrical steels.

Ravi passionately believes in developing enabling technologies relevant to major societal challenges, and has contributed to the UK applied sciences knowledge economy by training 145 PhD and postdoctoral staff. He assumes the Chief Editorship of Wiley's ‘Energy and Environmental Materials’ in 2018 to promote the importance of the field.

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