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The University of Southampton
Chemistry

Ilika plc: Driving Global Innovation in Next Generation Materials

Research into sustainable technologies by academics in Chemistry is helping to transform the automotive and energy industries. University of Southampton spin out company Ilika, founded by leading researchers, has established strong links with major manufacturers including Toyota, Shell, Asahi Kasei and NXP. The company uses the ‘clean technologies' of combinatorial chemistry within materials science to create new functional materials with specific and highly desirable properties for use in the next generation of batteries and fuel cells.

Research challenge

Combinatorial chemistry, the rapid synthesis of new molecules or materials, has long been used in drug discovery and catalysis. Research in Chemistry at Southampton, originally led by Professor Mark Bradley, Professor Brian Hayden and Dr Sam Guerin, has now allowed this technique to be applied to solid state materials and polymers. The breakthrough came in 2000 after the University was awarded £6million from the UK's Joint Infrastructure Fund to establish a Combinatorial Centre of Excellence. It enabled scientists at Southampton to work on vacuum-deposition of thin films on silicon micro-fabricated structures for the synthesis, characterisation and screening of these materials.

Context

If the world is to reduce its dependency on energy from fossil fuels, innovative technologies are essential. New solutions in energy storage are being sought by scientists across the globe and many collaborations are underway with industry to increase capacity and boost competitiveness. Combinatorial chemistry can quickly discover and test new materials, allowing screening and optimisation of the performance of batteries, catalysts and electronic devices.

Our solution

Cutting edge research at the University of Southampton is already finding practical applications in industry.

Ilika is working with Toyota to develop solid state lithium ion batteries that could make sustainable electric vehicles a real alternative in the future. The technology developed in the battery programme is also being applied by Ilika itself to develop high power thin film solid state battery technology for smaller energy storage applications. The company has also been developing the technology for fuel cell vehicles. Energy and automotive industries are also looking into using hydrogen as a fuel, but must find safe ways of storing and transporting the highly flammable gas. Ilika has worked with Shell to come up with effective and innovative solutions to make hydrogen-powered cars a reality.

The company also works closely with the electronics sector in developing semiconductor and memory technology for future application in the industry. With companies such as NXP and AMAT, it works on materials for solid state memory and semiconductor devices. In particular, it has developed technology in phase change memory, which could replace conventional flash memory in computers and smart phones because of its higher performance and ability to extend battery life.

Our impact

Translating innovative research from the laboratory into practical applications in industry, has been the basis of Ilika's success. It doubled its staff to 35 between 2008 and 2012, increased turnover by around 25 per cent each year and floated on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) in 2010 with a market capitalisation of £18.7million. Ilika's achievements were recognised in 2012 with the award of the University Spin-out of the Year prize at the New Energy Awards for the renewable energy sector, at the Science Museum in London.

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Ilika plc
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Driving Global Innovation
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Sustainable technologies

Key Publications

List of all staff members in
Staff MemberPrimary Position
Brian E HaydenProfessor of Physical Chemistry, Associate Dean (Enterprise)
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