Major new research programme on materials of the future


Uppsala University is among the higher education institutions jointly embarking on a big new materials research programme aimed at improving scope for a sustainable society. The programme is to be funded by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation.

The programme is intended to promote breakthroughs involving wholly unexplored materials that can be used in future sustainable technologies and applications. Photograph: Magnus Bergström

Wallenberg Initiative Material Science for Sustainability, as the new programme is titled, will focus on such topics as conversion, storage and distribution of clean energy and substitution of circular, sustainable materials for rare, energy-intensive and toxic compounds. The programme is also intended to promote breakthroughs involving wholly unexplored materials that can be used in future sustainable technologies and applications. The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation (KAW) will invest SEK 2.7 billion in this research over the years 2022–2033.

“This is incredibly good for Swedish research in new functional materials, and it will generate potential for technologies for a sustainable society,” says Olle Eriksson, Professor of Theoretical Magnetism at Uppsala University, who helped design the programme.

Alternatives to cobalt

The University’s materials research profile already focuses on sustainable technologies to a high degree, Eriksson says. This new KAW initiative will enable Uppsala to gain international pole positions in a range of important areas. One example is in identifying materials that can be alternatives to cobalt, an element regarded as potentially toxic. Cobalt is used for such purposes as making machine tools for the steel industry, and in the batteries that enable electrification of our transport sector.

The programme also makes possible research on novel, functional magnetic materials for magnetic cooling and new, “greener” permanent magnets, for example. Uppsala University will also be able to build up its materials research on improved solar cells. And trying out ideas in entirely unexplored areas, for the purpose of finding materials that open up for modern, environment-friendly technologies for our society, will become feasible.

Along with Uppsala University, the Universities of Lund, Stockholm and Linköping will also be participating in the new research programme, Wallenberg Initiative Material Science for Sustainability, as will KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Chalmers University of Technology and Luleå University of Technology. The programme will be hosted by Linköping University.

Linda Koffmar