University of Sheffield scientist honoured for being at forefront of research and innovation in the UK

Dr Dikai Guan, from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and the Henry Royce Institute, Sheffield, has been recognised for his outstanding research and awarded a Future Leaders Fellowship by UK Research and Innovation.

A photo of Dr Dikai Guan

Dikai will receive a portion of the £900m fund set up by UKRI to help to establish the careers of world-class research and innovation leaders across UK business and academia.

Using Henry Royce Institute equipment and facilities, Dikai’s research will look at the ‘Development of strong, formable, stainless and low-cost magnesium alloys for next generation cars’, and will contribute to the UK’s ‘Future of Mobility’ Grand Challenge by working towards the design and manufacture of ultra-low/zero emission vehicles. It is suggested that a 10% reduction in vehicle weight can lead to around an 8% improvement in fuel economy.

While the use of magnesium would offer significant weight savings, there are long-standing issues around high production costs, low formability and high corrosion rates associated with magnesium alloys, when compared to traditional automotive materials. His fellowship aims to develop light, low-cost magnesium alloys with high strength, good formability and high corrosion resistance to replace heavier aluminium and steel components.

Dikai’s fellowship receives over £1m funding over four years, and will allow him to build a research team and establish experimental facilities. It will involve collaboration with industrial partners TWI Ltd and Luxfer MEL Technologies, as well as academic partners from King’s College London, Imperial College London and Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China.

On his fellowship, Dikai comments: "Receiving the UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships is a breakthrough to my academic career, enabling me to become a Principal Investigator for the first time and conduct independent research.

"One of the key factors to winning this award is the strong research environment I chose. For example, the Henry Royce Institute in Sheffield consists of vast state-of-the-art facilities and emerging technologies. With these key resources such as the strip caster, reversing hot rolling mill, Spark Plasma Sintering, and the high throughput JEM-F200 S/TEM, JSM-7900F SEM with high-performance EBSD detector, I can conduct all my critical research tasks covering alloy design, processing and manufacturing, testing and characterisation, and translation to industry in one place, which is very difficult to be realised in other research institutes.

"In the long term, my ambition is to create and expand a world leading team known for its expertise in developing materials science, engineering based alloy selection techniques, manufacturing and thermomechanical processing.

"This fellowship will be not only the beginning of my independent research focusing on light Mg alloy systems, but will also be a very important foundation to enable me to lead future light weighting research areas distributed in automotive, aerospace, medical and defence sectors and act as an ambassador for UK science and innovation."

Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation, said: "The Future Leaders Fellowships are UKRI’s flagship talent programme, designed to foster and nurture the research and innovation leaders of the future.

"We are delighted to support these outstanding researchers and innovators across universities, research organisations and businesses."

Kirsty Grainger, Director of the UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships, said: "That businesses are hosting Future Leaders Fellows demonstrates the fellowships’ potential to create innovative solutions that can deliver transformational change for industry and wider society.

"The Future Leaders Fellows represent some of the most brilliant people working in the country. We’re supporting researchers from every background – from the arts to medicine, and the social sciences to engineering – helping them become the research and innovation leaders of the future."

The Future Leaders Fellowship scheme has already been through two rounds of awards, with 119 fellowships having been awarded.

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