The grant will fund a five-year project, - Applying Long-lived Metastable States with Switchable Functionality via Kinetic Control of Molecular Assembly – which will look at new ways of making functional materials.

“Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Programme grants are only awarded to a few projects each year, and rarely to a team from a single department. This is a really exciting opportunity”, explained Professor Wilson.

The project will involve a team of 20 – including Dr Andy Burrows, Dr Dave Carbery, Professor Frank Marken, Professor Steve Parker and Dr Aron Walsh - and will build upon research undertaken by Professor Raithby during his EPSRC Senior Fellowship.

Professor Wilson said: “It gives us a chance to extend Paul’s pioneering work into metastable states and move towards making these metastable states useful. In essence we are exploring ways of making smart materials even smarter”.

Applications for these metastable state materials include: more efficient conductors, increased miniaturisation of electronic devices, smart paints or fabrics whose colour could be chosen to suit mood or environment, and for the development of active membranes whose mechanical properties can be actively tuned, for medical and energy applications.

Professor Raithby said: “Our approach is a completely new type of chemistry. It mirrors work carried out by pioneers such as the physicist Sir John Pendry in the area of metamaterials. The EPSRC grant has given us a great opportunity to make a whole new type of “chemical metamaterial” and to develop the associated functionality for the first time.”