Major award will help to develop ceramic armour

Dr Hywel Jones with prototype body armour being developed by XeraCarb
Dr Hywel Jones with prototype body armour being developed by XeraCarb
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The Sheffield Hallam University scientist behind a revolutionary new material that could be used to make lightweight body armour has won a major award.

Dr Hywel Jones is a principal researcher in the university’s Materials and Engineering Research Institute.

He teamed up with Barnsley ceramics expert Dr Anthony Pick to develop a lightweight ceramic called XeraCarb and create a university spin-out business with the same name.

Now, Dr Jones has become a Royal Society Industrial Fellow – an accolade which comes with funding that will allow him to spend two years conducting research with XeraCarb.

XeraCarb itself can be used in a range of applications, including for making ‘kiln furniture’ which is used to support plates, dishes and cups when they are fired in a kiln and for wear-resistant components and high temperature resistant materials.

Dr Jones will be using his fellowship to develop new lightweight ceramic armour from XeraCarb, which could be worn by soldiers or used to protect the vehicles they travel in.

As well as being up to 30 per cent lighter than current ceramic body armours, the manufacturing process requires much lower temperatures, therefore saving on energy.

Royal Society Industrial Fellowships are awarded to allow university-based scientists to spend time conducting their research in an industrial environment.

Dr Jones said: “The Royal Society Industrial Fellowship recognises the important role new innovative companies like XeraCarb can play in the UK’s economy.

“The Fellowship will allow me to support the company as it develops new innovative products and finds new applications for the technology. Continuous research and innovation are vital for the success of companies like XeraCarb and the fellowship will allow me to contribute to the company’s growth and success.”

XeraCarb chairman Chris Wright said: “This is a major endorsement of the quality of science that lies behind XeraCarb and its products.”

Professor Roger Eccleston, Pro-Vice Chancellor of the faculty for Arts, Computing, Engineering and Science at Sheffield Hallam, said: “This is a great achievement, recognising Hywel Jones’s work in the development of innovative materials and the commercial potential of XeraCarb’s technology.

“This partnership between academia and industry is at the very heart of university’s ambitions in this challenging era and demonstrates that our research has the potential to support economic recovery.”

Earlier this year XeraCarb announced it was gearing up to go into production with funding from Finance Yorkshire.