Professor Nicole Grobert will be working with Williams Advanced Engineering.

Image credit: Williams

Nanomaterials professor to work with Williams Advanced Engineering after winning third Royal Society fellowship

Stuart Gillespie

Professor Nicole Grobert, a nanomaterials scientist at Oxford University, has been awarded a Royal Society Industry Fellowship to work with Williams Advanced Engineering, part of the Williams group of companies that includes the Williams Martini Racing Formula One team. In doing so, she has become the first person to hold all three of the Royal Society’s Industry, University Research and the Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowships.

As part of her new industrial fellowship, Professor Grobert will support Williams Advanced Engineering's Technology Ventures Group to help bring emerging nanomaterials technologies and IP to market.

Nanomaterials, which exist in a range of different shapes and include the 'supermaterial' graphene, are so tiny that modern techniques such as advanced electron microscopy are required to see them. By definition, all nanomaterials are no bigger than 100 nanometres (100 billionths of a metre) in at least one direction.

Professor Grobert, who heads the Nanomaterials by Design Group in Oxford's Department of Materials, said: 'This Royal Society Industry Fellowship provides an excellent opportunity to bridge the gap between research and industry and help accelerate the commercialisation of this rapidly developing area of science. My group has already been working on a number of nanomaterial-application engineering projects with Williams, funded by Oxford's EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account, and I look forward to more innovation projects with Williams and the wider industry under this fellowship.'

She added: 'Nanomaterials is a hugely exciting field in which the possibilities are limitless. In theory, nanomaterials can outperform traditional materials. They can be highly conductive, lightweight and ultra-strong. If we tackle current practical challenges related to manufacturing, characterisation, processing and handling, nanomaterials could be the answer to many of modern society’s problems, including the ever-increasing demand for better energy and healthcare solutions.

'Williams Advanced Engineering inspired me to apply for this fellowship with their vision of delivering performance-engineered solutions that make a positive societal impact. Identified as one of the "eight GREAT technology areas" by the UK government, advanced materials combine both our science and business strengths, with UK material-related industries having a yearly turnover of £197 billion.

'Key to the success of nanomaterials is a multi-pronged approach – designing new, controlled production routes, combined with novel nano and classical materials, with end-user applications in mind. The Royal Society Industry Fellowship will enable this. In a few decades, nanostructured materials could easily exceed the importance that plastics have in our lives today.'

After completing her PhD, Professor Grobert joined Oxford and was awarded a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship, followed by a Royal Society University Fellowship and an ERC Starting Grant. This long-term funding was crucial in helping Professor Grobert and other scientists at Oxford towards the challenging goal of taking blue-skies research to the next level by achieving the controlled production of new carbon and non-carbon-based nanomaterials – in particular, the structural control of nanomaterials down to the atomic level.

Craig Wilson, Managing Director of Williams Advanced Engineering, said: 'Williams Advanced Engineering is extremely excited about Nicole joining our team of experienced engineers, and being able to continue to offer her deep knowledge of materials science across our programmes and ventures to help ensure we can deliver state-of-the-art technology solutions.'

Professor Patrick Grant, Head of the Department of Materials at Oxford, added: 'With our strong history of collaboration with world-leading industries, we are delighted to participate in this Royal Society Industry Fellowship that will allow us to strengthen further our links with Williams Advanced Engineering. Through her earlier Royal Society-funded Dorothy Hodgkin and University Research Fellowships, Professor Grobert has generated the fundamental knowledge and facilities that allow large-scale, controlled manufacturing of nanomaterials in her laboratory. We are now looking forward to seeing the next generation of nanomaterials, designed at the Department, being incorporated in advanced engineering applications.'