Ilika’s high throughput materials innovation applications

Ilika’s unique high throughput, accelerated materials innovation capabilities have been deployed by clients in many applications. Below are some examples to illustrate those capabilities, but please contact Ilika to discuss your materials innovation requirements even if they are not aligned to the applications illustrated here:

Self-healing alloys for aerospace

Ilika collaborates to develop self-healing alloys for aerospace


Load-bearing components in the aerospace industry, such as engine mounts and landing gear, are subject to repetitive stress cycles which can lead to the formation of micro-cracks. In conventional materials, these micro-cracks propagate and can eventually lead to the fracture of the component. Self-healing alloys form a class of materials that deal with stress cycles by undergoing a phase transformation which allows the material to absorb the strain created in the materials. Only a limited number of alloys are known to exhibit this behaviour and there is a requirement to broaden the selection of alloys with diverse mechanical properties, to allow their use in a wider range of components. Further, a knowledge gap exists between the two manufacturing methods used for these components, which require a high level of precision.

Solution and Outcome:

In September 2015, Ilika announced that Innovate UK, the UK grant body, had awarded it the lead role in a £2.15 million, 3-year collaborative project to develop novel self-healing alloys with GKN Aerospace Services, BAE Systems, Reliance Precision Engineering and the University of Sheffield. The project takes a fully integrated approach to developing the alloys, starting with high throughput synthesis and screening of candidate materials. A shortlist of those materials exhibiting the correct phase transformations are made as powders suitable for additive manufacturing (AM). Key aerospace components which are known to be subject to stress cycling are being made using a unique combination of AM and precision subtractive manufacturing. This is paving the way for the manufacture of components with critical feature tolerances designed to be of lower weight but with both structural integrity and functional performance.

2-D Materials for Plasmonic Lenses

Ilika and Seagate investigate 2-D Materials for Plasmonic Lenses


When buying a laptop, consumers have the choice between one with a solid state drive (SSD) or one with a hard disk drive (HDD). Even though the price of SSD’s has been falling, HDD’s remain cheaper per unit of memory. However, to protect market share, Seagate has developed the next generation of HDD technology, which uses Heat-Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR). Materials with superior nanophotonic properties allow improved HDD performance and reliability. HAMR enables a much higher density of information storage on a HDD, making a reality of terabyte hard drives for laptops. HAMR could benefit from 2D materials in the plasmonic lens .

Solution and Outcome:

In February 2016, Ilika announced that it is participating in a two-year project with Seagate and the University of Southampton to develop 2-D materials for this application. Ilika’s thin film technology allows it to make crystalline materials consisting in a single layer of atoms. The materials will be tested at up to hundreds of degrees’ Celsius for thousands of hours and their photonic properties evaluated. This area is sometimes referred to as nanophotonics, which is the interaction of nanometer-scale objects with light.  

High Entropy Alloys

Ilika and Boeing Investigate Potential of High Entropy Alloys


The aerospace industry relies on continual improvements in the performance of materials to achieve reduced life cycle costs. Total aircraft structural weight reductions of around 8% per decade have been achieved since the 1970’s, contributing to commercial aeroplane fuel burn reductions of about 1% per year over the same period.

Solution and Outcome:

Ilika and Boeing have recently collaborated on an investigation of high entropy alloys to establish if this class of materials offers promising structural phases which merit further investigation and if high-throughput thin films techniques are comparable to the standard bulk approach.  The programme chose quinary alloys of iron, nickel, cobalt, copper and gallium around the equiatomic composition. The alloys were made in thin film form using Ilika’s high throughput platform, compositionally characterised before being annealed at 700°C and then structurally characterised with X-ray diffraction before a final compositional check was made. The high throughput work was carried out in a two-month period. In that period 2548 systematically varying compositions were made and characterised. As a result, a clear understanding of the compositional dependence of the formation of the four distinct phases was gained, including the percentage occurrence of each bcc and fcc phase within the quinary compositional spread. Finally, some bulk samples were prepared using traditional ingot preparation methods for selected compositions, which gave equivalent results to the thin film alloys.

Further details of some of the work undertaken in this collaboration have been published in this paper:

The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (2015) High-Throughput Synthesis and Characterisation of Thin Film High Entropy Alloys Based on the Fe-Ni-Co-Cu-Ga System, in TMS2015 Supplemental Proceedings, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, NJ, USA. doi: 10.1002/9781119093466.ch138

ISBN Information
Print ISBN: 9781119082415
Online ISBN: 9781119093466


Ilika uses High Throughput Development for Superalloys with Rolls-Royce


Gas-turbine engine development for the aerospace industry continues to strive for improved fuel efficiency, reduced emissions and a reduction in noise at take off. This development effort demands materials, which can tolerate increasingly high operating temperatures while retaining their mechanical strength. Nickel-based superalloys are widely used in gas turbines and much effort has previously gone into understanding the relationship between composition, microstructure and properties. However, the scope for further developing nickel-based alloys is diminishing and therefore the rate of improvement of aeroengine technology is decreasing. There is, therefore, an opportunity to investigate alternative lightweight alloy systems, which may also be able to operate under high temperatures, handle greater stresses and remain in service for longer.

In the UK, the aerospace sector has been recognised as a key part of the country's manufacturing base and has been identified for government support through the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), which will deploy £2 billion over the next seven years to improve efficiency and environmental performance.


Ilika uses high throughput, or combinatorial, techniques which involve the rapid synthesis of large numbers of different structurally-related materials in a few automated processing steps. Ilika is being supported by a grant from Innovate UK (formerly the Technology Strategy Board) and is working together with Dr Howard Stone’s group at Cambridge University and Diamond Light Source. Rolls-Royce is participating in the programme steering committee and has confirmed their commitment to this area of research.

In September 2016, this paper outlining the interim findings of the screening programme was presented at the Superalloys 2016 conference. Click here (to download PDF)

A printed version of this paper is included in the published proceedings of the conference.Published in Superalloys 2016: Proceedings of the 13th International Symposium on SuperalloysEdited by: Mark Hardy, Eric Huron, Uwe Glatzel, Brian Griffin, Beth Lewis,Cathie Rae, Venkat Seetharaman, and Sammy TinTMS (The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society), 2016Published by Wiley:

Corrosion Resistant Alloys

Ilika Uses High Throughput Approach on the Assessment of Corrosion Resistant Alloys for Aerospace Industry


In the UK, the aerospace sector has been recognised as a key part of the country's manufacturing base and has been identified for government support through the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), which will deploy £2 billion over the next seven years to improve efficiency and environmental performance.

The aerospace sector is driven by the demand for materials innovation to improve aeroplane fuel economy. The use of lighter, stronger airframe materials as well as applying coatings to reduce drag can deliver significant fuel savings.

Currently chromium and cadmium are widely used in the automotive and aerospace industries as corrosion-resistant coatings. However, the EU has banned their use as part of its Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive and aerospace companies are seeking alternative materials with the same innovative characteristics.

Solution and outcome:  

Ilika has been collaborating with a number of aerospace companies to develop new innovative materials to improve efficiency and environmental performance within this sector.

Using the Ilika High Throughput Physical Vapour Deposition (HT-PVD) platform, the company has developed methods to make and screen coatings in high throughput mode, allowing companies to identify alloys that can be potential candidates to replace existing materials.

Ilika adapted its high throughput screening methodology to employ multi-channel current followers and a silicon micro-fabricated array of independently addressable electrodes to the screening of corrosion characteristics of thin film materials. The screening methodology is compatible with the high-throughput PVD methodology allowing the controllable deposition of compositional gradients of a large range of thin film materials.

The method was applied to the study of a library of Ni–Cr alloys in order to assess the effectiveness of this high-throughput approach and an optical screening method was also used to assess corrosion behaviour of a library of thin films by image analysis of electrodes before and after exposure to the corrosion environment. 

Further scientific details of the high throughput methods used to assess corrosion resistance are available in Electrochimica Acta 76 (2012) pp 389-393, which is available to subscribers at:

Metal Gates for Dielectrics

Ilika and Applied Materials Join Forces to Develop a Novel Metal Gate Alloy Compatible with High k Dielectrics to Advance Complementary Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor (CMOS) Devices


The rapid improvement in the performance of CMOS devices over the last 40 years has only been possible due to the ever reducing dimensions of the key components within them. The consumer electronics market is being driven by the need for smaller and smaller devices, but with improved functionality.

However, the continued “scaling” of such devices is limited by the performance of the dielectric material within the transistor, SiO2. Each time the thickness of this material is reduced it comes closer to a fundamental limit, at which the device’s power consumption increases and device failure becomes more probable.

Therefore, alternative metal gate materials compatible with higher dielectric constants must be considered for future CMOS devices. The International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors has also cited that the development of suitable gate electrodes, including tuneable work function systems, is a major challenge for future CMOS device scaling.

Solution and Outcome:

Ilika and Applied Materials, a global leader in providing innovative equipment, services and software to enable the manufacture of advanced semiconductor products, worked together to develop new metal alloy as the metal gate suitable with  high k dielectrics for CMOS applications.  

By synthesising libraries of metal oxide silicon capacitors (MOSCAPs) using Ilika’s high throughput physical vapour deposition (HT-PVD) technology and performing the characterisation in an automated fashion, the process of screening the metal alloy materials to achieve the work function of interest was accelerated significantly.

This high throughput approach to materials synthesis coupled with high throughput characterisation and screening meant that Ilika and Applied materials could optimise the materials with respect to a desired property in a much shorter timeframe. This approach also enabled the study in more detail of the material and electrical behaviours of interesting compositions.

The result of the project was a systematic  study and the development of  an array of hafnium silicon metal alloy material candidates as metal gates that are compatible with high-k dielectrics and the effective metal work-function of each material was evaluated and showed tunabilitiy from 4.5 to 4.0eV, suitable for n-channel metal-oxide-semiconductor (NMOS) applications.

Further details of some of the work undertaken in this collaboration has been published in this AIP paper:

Copyright 2013, American Institute of Physics. This article may be downloaded for personal use only. Any other use requires prior permission of the author and the American Institute of Physics.

The article appeared in JAP 113 3 034107 and may be found at

Solid State Batteries

Toyota Motor Corporation (Battery Research Division) uses Ilika’s High Throughput Physical Vapour Deposition (HT-PVD) Technology for Development of Batteries for Next Generation Electric and Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles


Battery technology is the most widely used method for storing low-carbon portable energy, currently mainly in consumer electronics but also to an increasing extent for hybrid and electric vehicles. The current market size is $8bn per annum and expected to grow to $32bn by 2018.

In order to deliver the fuel economy benefits of hybrid and electric vehicles, new batteries are required which can store energy in a small volume, but can also charge and discharge rapidly while remaining safe.

Solid state batteries are capable of delivering these benefits and their advancement is dependent on the development of highly conductive, stable electrolytes.  A rapid means to explore candidate electrolyte materials is of great interest to battery manufacturers.


Since 2008, Ilika has been working with Toyota on the development of novel battery chemistries that can fulfil these objectives and has since filed 9 patents on some of the novel materials and production methods that have been jointly invented. Toyota has sold by far the most hybrid vehicles through the success of its Prius model and is regarded by the industry as the leader in this sector.

Using the Ilika High Throughput Physical Vapour Deposition (HT-PVD) platform, Ilika and Toyota’s Battery Research Division, have worked on a joint development project to synthesise, characterise and optimise thin film, solid state lithium ion electrolyte materials to develop the next generation of batteries for EVs and PHEVs.

With Ilika’s HT-PVD facility, Toyota has been able to develop advanced electrode and electrolyte materials for lithium-ion batteries in a far quicker and more efficient way than traditional materials discovery processes.  Ilika’s HT-PVD platform uses high-throughput or combinational techniques which involve the rapid synthesis of a large number of different structurally related materials in a few automated steps. The deposition of all elements occurs simultaneously and the composition profile can be carefully carried across the substrate in a controlled manner.

The use of solid state electrolytes in batteries will help to reduce battery size, allow rapid charge/discharge rates (allowing motorists to recharge their vehicles in a matter of minutes rather than hours) and increase the length of the battery's life.


“Ilika’s high-throughput techniques are essential to overcome some of the technological barriers we face in the development of leading edge technologies”

Mr Okajima, Project Manager at Toyota’s Frontier & Advanced Engineering Strategy Dept in its R&D Management Center

“Ilika’s methods have been an important source of materials innovation for our solid state battery programme in recent years. The synthetic methods are reliable, screening is rapid and accurate.”

Dr Yada, Senior Manager at Advanced Technology, Toyota Motor Europe NV/SA.

Further information can be found in:

 ACS Comb. Sci.201113 (4), pp 375–381, which is available to subscribers to the ACS Publications website:

J Electrochem Soc2015, 162 A722-726, which is available on the JES website:

Fuel Cell Catalysts

Ilika Partners with The Carbon Trust to Develop Platinum-free Fuel Cell Catalyst to Significantly Reduce Cost of Fuel Cells


Sales of fuel cells continue to be dominated by proton exchange membrane (PEM) technology, which grew six fold over the last four years.  The technology is dependent on platinum containing electrodes, which are the most expensive components in the fuel cells.

To enable widespread commercialisation of PEM technology, it is important to reduce the cost of these electrodes and Ilika's palladium alloy electro-catalysts have the potential to be 70% cheaper than platinum electro-catalysts on a cost/performance basis.


The Carbon Trust’s Polymer Fuel Cells Challenge is supporting the commercialisation of Ilika’s proprietary high performing electro-catalysts for use in fuel cell vehicles as a platinum replacement. Following Ilika’s discovery of a palladium-alloy electro-catalyst using its High Throughput Physical Vapour Deposition (HT-PVD) platform, the company worked with the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) an R&D organisation In Taiwan, to manufacture the electro-catalysts on a kilogram-scale quantity.

As part of the Carbon Trust's technical and commercial evaluation of the technology, Ilika submitted performance data for assessment by independent experts demonstrating the performance and stability of the catalyst. The performance data was generated in industry standard tests of membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) carried out at an independent fuel cell testing facility.

Ilika also plans to extend its intellectual property portfolio in this field by further developing low-cost platinum and palladium-alloy core shell electro-catalysts which exhibit excellent performance and stability.

Ilika has submitted the positive cell performance data along with material samples for evaluation to three global OEMs. Trials commenced in 2014. Patents defining this technology have been granted in the USA, Japan and Europe securing the intellectual property in the three major markets in which Ilika intends to commercialise its proprietary technology.


"We have been supporting Ilika's fuel cell work for some time. They continue to make good progress and the recent results provided to us show the major commercial and carbon-saving potential that this UK technology could unlock."

Michael Rea, Chief Operating Officer of Carbon Trust

Hydrogen Storage Alloys

Shell and Sigma-Aldrich Collaborate With Ilika to Develop and Commercialise Consumer Friendly Recyclable Hydrogen Storage Materials


Hydrogen is considered by many analysts to be the most promising energy carrier in the long term and its pollution-free conversion into energy by fuel cells is a very attractive feature. However, one of the key technical hurdles to be overcome for the adoption of hydrogen, is its safe and energy-efficient storage within compact containers and converting it into electricity cheaply.

Hydrogen transportation is largely carried out in compressed gas cylinders at pressures of up to 700 bar for use in prototype vehicles. Such pressures present a major hazard to both suppliers and users and large energy losses are incurred in compressing hydrogen to such pressures.

Ilika believes the answer to effective hydrogen storage lies in the use of metal hydrides, (metal alloys which have reacted with hydrogen to form a stable solid). These hydrides often exist in powder form and can store hydrogen chemically to yield much greater energy densities than lithium-ion batteries.


Using the Ilika High Throughput Physical Vapour Deposition (HT-PVD) platform, Ilika worked in collaboration with Shell Hydrogen to develop these lightweight metal hydrides to deliver high energy density and recyclable H2 storage materials. Working in an open innovation partnership, the companies were able to reduce both technical and business risk whilst exploring the potential of new products and markets.

Ilika’s HT-PVD platform uses high throughput techniques which involve the rapid synthesis of a large number of different structurally related materials in a few automated steps to rapidly make and test potential candidate materials. Working in this way, Ilika and Shell Hydrogen were to develop a number of patents in hydrogen storage: Mg-B-Ti Hydride, granted in China, Europe, Hong Kong, Japan, US and Australia and Li-Mg Hydride granted in Hong Kong, United Kingdom and Europe.

These patents are now being scaled-up in a commercial partnership with the Sigma-Aldrich Corporation, who will collaborate with Ilika to commercialise the next generation of hydrogen-storage materials. Both parties believe that this enterprise will become a vital component of the energy industry’s efforts to develop consumer-friendly hydrogen storage materials for fuel cell and clean combustion technology.


“We have been very impressed by Ilika’s unique high throughput discovery capabilities, which are very complementary to our scale-up facilities at Sigma-Aldrich. The collaboration, done as part of our custom research services, creates the unique opportunity to rapidly move from discovery to first commercialisation, making innovative energy storage materials available to end users in a short period of time.”

Viktor Balema, R&D Manager for Sigma-Aldrich

Tuneable Dielectrics

Improved Dielectric Thin Film Materials with High Voltage Tunability


A worldwide leader in the design, manufacture and sale of passive electronic components, communication modules and power supply modules, has worked together with Ilika to deliver improved tunable dielectric thin film materials using Ilika’s high throughput synthesis and screening technology platform.

The component manufacturer approached Ilika with requirements for investigation of low loss dielectric materials, which can be tuned by dc bias voltages for use in electronic components such as tunable filters and other RF front-end applications.

The rapidly growing consumer electronics market is driving the need for capacitors with improved performance for use as components in consumer electronic devices and other demanding applications.  Better performance of such electronic devices offers minimal change in capacitance at operating voltages with reference to ambient temperature combined with improvement of other characteristics, resulting in reduction of parts count, board space and power consumption for electronic devices such as smart phones etc.


Working together, Ilika and the manufacturer investigated new class of dielectric materials with high voltage tunability and low dielectric loss to deliver the necessary improved performance suitable for certain electronic components.

Using Ilika’s High Throughput Physical Vapour Deposition (HT-PVD) platform, the project included a high throughput study of four selected dopants in eight combinations for an anion-controlled perovskite material system, carrying out 1,037,232 measurements on 7056 distinct materials in 6 months. During the project, three families of materials were identified with increased bias stability, lower dielectric loss and with enhanced capacitance density in comparison with the conventional perovskite dielectric oxides.

The high throughput approach highlighted the composition of the material with the optimal dielectric properties.

Scientific Details:

An overview of this work was presented at the 1st International Symposium on Anion-controlled New Inorganic Materials (ANIM1) as part of E-MRS in Strasbourg in 2013 and further details can be found in the following paper, which is available to subscribers of the ACS Publications website: