Teddington, United Kingdom
Teddington, United Kingdom

The National Physical Laboratory is the national measurement standards laboratory for the United Kingdom, based at Bushy Park in Teddington, London, England. It is the largest applied physics organisation in the UK. Wikipedia.


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Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: EPSRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 2.92M | Year: 2014

The world around us is full of modern technology designed to make our lives safer, more comfortable and more efficient. Such technology is made possible by materials and devices that are able to interact with their surrounding environment either by sensing or acting upon it. Examples of such devices include motion detectors, fuel injectors, engine sensors and medical diagnostic tools. These interactive devices contain functional materials that can pose health hazards, are obtained from parts of the world where supply cannot be guaranteed or are relatively scarce. If access to these functional materials is restricted, many of these advances will no longer be available resulting in a reduction in living standards and decreased UK economic growth. There already exist a number of replacement materials that can provide the same functions without the same levels of concerns around safety, security of supply and sustainability. However, these replacement materials need to be manufactured using different processes compared to existing materials. This project explores new manufacturing technologies that could be used to create interactive devices that contains less harmful and sustainable materials with a secure supply. This project will focus on two types of material - thermoelectric and piezoelectric - where the replacement materials share a set of common challenges: they need to be processed at elevated temperatures; they contain elements that evaporate at high temperatures (making high temperature processing and processing of small elements difficult); they are mechanically fragile making it difficult to shape the materials by cutting, grinding or polishing; they are chemically stable making it difficult to shape them by etching; and many are air and moisture sensitive. The proposed research will address these challenges through three parallel research streams that proactively engage with industry. The first stream is composed of six manufacturing capability projects designed to develop the core manufacturing capabilities and know-how to support the programme. The second is a series of short term feasibility studies, conducted in collaboration with industry, to explore novel manufacturing concepts and evaluate their potential opportunities. Finally, the third stream will deliver focussed industrially orientated projects designed to develop specific manufacturing techniques for in an industrial manufacturing environment. The six manufacturing capability projects will address: 1) The production of functional material powders, using wet and dry controlled atmosphere techniques, needed as feedstock in the manufacture of bulk and printed functional materials. 2) How to produce functional materials while maintaining the required chemistry and microstructure to ensure high performance. Spark Plasma Sintering will be used to directly heat the materials and accelerate fusion of the individual powder particles using an electric current. 3) Printing of functional material inks to build up active devices without the need to assemble individual components. Combing industrially relevant printing processes, such as screen printing, with controlled rapid temperature treatments will create novel print manufacturing techniques capable of handling the substitute materials. 4) How to join and coat these new functional materials so that they can be assembled into a device or protected from harsh environments when in use. 5) The fitness of substituted material to be compatible with existing shaping and treatment stages found later in the manufacturing chain. 6) The need to ensure that the substitute materials do not pose an equal or greater risk within the manufacturing and product life cycle environment. Here lessons learned from comparable material systems will be used to help predict potential risks and exposures.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: EPSRC | Program: | Phase: Training Grant | Award Amount: 4.16M | Year: 2014

Recently, an influential American business magazine, Forbes, chose Quantum Engineering as one of its top 10 majors (degree programmes) for 2022. According to Forbes magazine (September 2012): a need is going to arise for specialists capable of taking advantage of quantum mechanical effects in electronics and other products. We propose to renew the CDT in Controlled Quantum Dynamics (CQD) to continue its success in training students to develop quantum technologies in a collaborative manner between experiment and theory and across disciplines. With the ever growing demand for compactness, controllability and accuracy, the size of opto-electronic devices in particular, and electronic devices in general, is approaching the realm where only fully quantum mechanical theory can explain the fluctuations in (and limitations of) these devices. Pushing the frontiers of the very small and very fast looks set to bring about a revolution in our understanding of many fundamental processes in e.g. physics, chemistry and even biology with widespread applications. Although the fundamental basis of quantum theory remains intact, more recent theoretical and experimental developments have led researchers to use the laws of quantum mechanics in new and exciting ways - allowing the manipulation of matter on the atomic scale for hitherto undreamt of applications. This field not only holds the promise of addressing the issue of quantum fluctuations but of turning the quantum behaviour of nano- structures to our advantage. Indeed, the continued development of high-technology is crucial and we are convinced that our proposed CDT can play an important role. When a new field emerges a key challenge in meeting the current and future demands of industry is appropriate training, which is what we propose to achieve in this CDT. The UK plays a leading role in the theory and experimental development of CQD and Imperial College is a centre of excellence within this context. The team involved in the proposed CDT covers a wide range of key activities from theory to experiment. Collectively we have an outstanding track record in research, training of postgraduate students and teaching. The aim of the proposed CDT is to provide a coherent training environment bringing together PhD students from a wide variety of backgrounds and giving them an appreciation of experiment and theory of related fields under the umbrella of CQD. Students graduating from our programme will subsequently find themselves in high-demand both by industry and academia. The proposed CDT addresses the EPSRC strategic area Quantum Information Processing and Quantum Optics and one of the priority areas of the CDT call, Towards Quantum Technologies. The excellence of our doctoral training has been recognised by the award of a highly competitive EU Innovative Doctoral Programme (IDP) in Frontiers of Quantum Technology, which will start in October 2013 running for four years with the budget around 3.8 million euros. The new CDT will closely work with the IDP to maximise synergy. It is clear that other high-profile activities within the general area of CQD are being undertaken in a range of other UK universities and within Imperial College. A key aim of our DTC is inclusivity. We operate a model whereby academics from outside of Imperial College can act as co-supervisors for PhD students on collaborative projects whereby the student spends part of the PhD at the partner institution whilst remaining closely tied to Imperial College and the student cohort. Many of the CDT activities including lectures and summer schools will be open to other PhD students within the UK. Outreach and transferable skills courses will be emphasised to provide a set of outreach classes and to organise various outreach activities including the CDT in CQD Quantum Show to the general public and CDT Festivals and to participate in Imperials Science Festivals.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: EPSRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 3.72M | Year: 2014

The conditions in which materials are required to operate are becoming ever more challenging. Operating temperatures and pressures are increasing in all areas of manufacture, energy generation, transport and environmental clean-up. Often the high temperatures are combined with severe chemical environments and exposure to high energy and, in the nuclear industry, to ionising radiation. The production and processing of next-generation materials capable of operating in these conditions will be non-trivial, especially at the scale required in many of these applications. In some cases, totally new compositions, processing and joining strategies will have to be developed. The need for long-term reliability in many components means that defects introduced during processing will need to be kept to an absolute minimum or defect-tolerant systems developed, e.g. via fibre reinforcement. Modelling techniques that link different length and time scales to define the materials chemistry, microstructure and processing strategy are key to speeding up the development of these next-generation materials. Further, they will not function in isolation but as part of a system. It is the behaviour of the latter that is crucial, so that interactions between different materials, the joining processes, the behaviour of the different parts under extreme conditions and how they can be made to work together, must be understood. Our vision is to develop the required understanding of how the processing, microstructures and properties of materials systems operating in extreme environments interact to the point where materials with the required performance can be designed and then manufactured. Aligned with the Materials Genome Initiative in the USA, we will integrate hierarchical and predictive modelling capability in fields where experiments are extremely difficult and expensive. The team have significant experience of working in this area. Composites based on exotic materials such as zirconium diborides and silicon carbide have been developed for use as leading edges for hypersonic vehicles over a 3 year, DSTL funded collaboration between the 3 universities associated with this proposal. World-leading achievements include densifying them in <10 mins using a relatively new technique known as spark plasma sintering (SPS); measuring their thermal and mechanical properties at up to 2000oC; assessing their oxidation performance at extremely high heat fluxes and producing fibre-reinforced systems that can withstand exceptionally high heating rates, e.g. 1000oC s-1, and temperatures of nearly 3000oC for several minutes. The research planned for this Programme Grant is designed to both spin off this knowledge into materials processing for nuclear fusion and fission, aerospace and other applications where radiation, oxidation and erosion resistance at very high temperatures are essential and to gain a deep understanding of the processing-microstructure-property relations of these materials and how they interact with each other by undertaking one of the most thorough assessments ever, allowing new and revolutionary compositions, microstructures and composite systems to be designed, manufactured and tested. A wide range of potential crystal chemistries will be considered to enable identification of operational mechanisms across a range of materials systems and to achieve paradigm changing developments. The Programme Grant would enable us to put in place the expertise required to produce a chain of knowledge from prediction and synthesis through to processing, characterisation and application that will enable the UK to be world leading in materials for harsh environments.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: EPSRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 6.65M | Year: 2015

Society faces major challenges that require disruptive new materials solutions. For example, there is a worldwide demand for materials for sustainable energy applications, such as safer new battery technologies or the efficient capture and utilization of solar energy. This project will develop an integrated approach to designing, synthesizing and evaluating new functional materials, which will be developed across organic and inorganic solids, and also hybrids that contain both organic and inorganic modules in a single solid. The UK is well placed to boost its knowledge economy by discovering breakthrough functional materials, but there is intense global completion. Success, and long-term competitiveness, is critically dependent on developing improved capability to create such materials. All technologically advanced nations have programmes that address this challenge, exemplified by the $100 million of initial funding for the US Materials Genome Initiative. The traditional approach to building functional materials, where the properties arise from the placement of the atoms, can be contrasted with large-scale engineering. In engineering, the underpinning Newtonian physics is understood to the point that complex structures, such as bridges, can be constructed with millimetre precision. By contrast, the engineering of functional materials relies on a much less perfect understanding of the relationship between structure and function at the atomic level, and a still limited capability to achieve atomic level precision in synthesis. Hence, the failure rate in new materials synthesis is enormous compared with large-scale engineering, and this requires large numbers of researchers to drive success, placing the UK at a competitive disadvantage compared to larger countries. The current difficulty of materials design at the atomic level also leads to cultural barriers: in building a bridge, the design team would work closely with the engineering construction team throughout the process. By contrast, the direct, day-to-day integration of theory and synthesis to identify new materials is not common practice, despite impressive advances in the ability of computation to tackle more complex systems. This is a fundamental challenge in materials research. This Programme Grant will tackle the challenge by delivering the daily working-level integration of computation and experiment to discover new materials, driven by a closely interacting team of specialists in structure and property prediction, measurement and materials synthesis. Key to this will be unique methods developed by our team that led to recent landmark publications in Science and Nature. We are therefore internationally well placed to deliver this timely vision. Our approach will enable discovery of functional materials on a much faster timescale. It will have broad scope, because we will develop it across materials types with a range of targeted properties. It will have disruptive impact because it uses chemical understanding and experiment in tandem with calculations that directly exploit chemical knowledge. In the longer term, the approach will enable a wide range of academic and industrial communities in chemistry and also in physics and engineering, where there is often a keener understanding of the properties required for applications, to design better materials. This approach will lead to new materials, such as battery electrolytes, materials for information storage, and photocatalysts for solar energy conversion, that are important societal and commercial targets in their own right. We will exploit discoveries and share the approach with our commercial partners via the Knowledge Centre for Materials Chemistry and the new Materials Innovation Factory, a £68 million UK capital investment in state-of-the-art materials research facilities for both academic and industrial users. Industry and the Universities commit 55% of the project cost.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: EPSRC | Program: | Phase: Training Grant | Award Amount: 5.00M | Year: 2014

Quantum technologies promise a transformation of measurement, communication and computation by using ideas originating from quantum physics. The UK was the birthplace of many of the seminal ideas and techniques; the technologies are now ready to translate from the laboratory into industrial applications. Since international companies are already moving in this area, there is a critical need across the UK for highly-skilled researchers who will be the future leaders in quantum technology. Our proposal is driven by the need to train this new generation of leaders. They will need to be equipped to function in a complex research and engineering landscape where quantum physics meets cryptography, complexity and information theory, devices, materials, software and hardware engineering. We propose to train a cohort of leaders to meet these challenges within the highly interdisciplinary research environment provided by UCL, its commercial and governmental laboratory partners. In their first year the students will obtain a background in devices, information and computational sciences through three concentrated modules organized around current research issues. They will complete a team project and a longer individual research project, preparing them for their choice of main research doctoral topic at the end of the year. Cross-cohort training in communication skills, technology transfer, enterprise, teamwork and career planning will continue throughout the four years. Peer to peer learning will be continually facilitated not only by organized cross-cohort activities, but also by the day to day social interaction among the members of the cohort thanks to their co-location at UCL.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: EPSRC | Program: | Phase: Training Grant | Award Amount: 4.28M | Year: 2014

Condensed matter physics is a major underpinning area of science and technology. For example, the physics of electrons in solids underpins much of modern technology and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. We propose to create a Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) which will address the national need to develop researchers equipped with the skill sets and perspective to make worldwide impact in this area. The research themes covered address some very fundamental questions in science such as the physics of superconductors, novel magnetic materials, single atomic layer crystals, plasmonic structures, and metamaterials, and also more applied topics in the power electronics, optoelectronics and sensor development fields. There are strong connections between fundamental and applied condensed matter physics. The goal of the Centre is to provide high calibre graduates with a focussed but comprehensive training programme in the most important physical aspects of these important materials, from intelligent design (first principles electronic structure calculations and modelling), via cutting-edge materials synthesis, characterisation and sophisticated instrumentation, through to identification and realisation of exciting new applications. In addition programme development will emphasise transferable skills including business & enterprise, outreach and communication. As stated in the impact section, physics-dependent businesses are of major importance to the UK economy.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: EPSRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 2.51M | Year: 2015

Glass has been a key material for many important advances in civilization; it was glass lenses which allowed microscopes to see bacteria for the first time and telescopes which revealed the planets and the moons of Jupiter. Glassware itself has contributed to the development of chemical, biological and cultural progress for thousands of years. The transformation of society with glass continues in modern times; as strands of glass optical fibres transform the internet and how we communicate. Today, glasses have moved beyond transparent materials, and through ongoing research have become active advanced and functional materials. Unlike conventional glasses made from silica or sand, research is now producing glasses from materials such as sulphur, which yields an unusual, yellow orange glass with incredibly varied properties. This next generation of speciality glasses are noted for their functionality and their ability to respond to optical, electrical and thermal stimuli. These glasses have the ability to switch, bend, self-organize and darken when exposed to light, they can even conduct electricity. They transmit light in the infra-red, which ordinary glass blocks and the properties of these glasses can even change, when strong light is incident upon them. The demand for speciality glass is growing and these advanced materials are of national importance for the UK. Our businesses that produce and process materials have a turnover of around £170 billion per annum; represent 15% of the countrys GDP and have exports valued at £50 billion. With our proposed research programme we will produce extremely pure, highly functional glasses, unique to the world. The aims of our proposed research are as follows: - To establish the UK as a world-leading speciality glass research and manufacturing facility - To discovery new and optimize existing glass compositions, particularly in glasses made with sulphur - To develop links with UK industry and help them to expit these new glass materials - To demonstrate important new electronic, telecommunication, switching devices from these glasses - To partner other UK Universities to explore new and emerging applications of speciality glass To achieve these goals we bring together a world-class, UK team of physicists, chemists, engineers and computer scientists from Southampton, Exeter, Oxford, Cambridge and Heriot-Watt Universities. We are partners with over 15 UK companies who will use these materials in their products or contribute to new ways of manufacturing them. This proposal therefore provides a unique opportunity to underpin a substantial national programme in speciality-glass manufacture, research and development.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: EPSRC | Program: | Phase: Fellowship | Award Amount: 668.05K | Year: 2015

If loaded a small amount, a metal will deform elastically, returning to its original shape when the load is removed. However if the load exceeds some value, then permanent deformation occurs, known as plasticity. Plasticity is far more complex to understand than elasticity as it involves breaking lines of atomic bonds in the metal. These lines of broken atomic bonds are called dislocations. This is analogous to the motion of a caterpillar: which does not attempt to move its whole body forward simultaneously; instead it incrementally moves its body forward in a wave of motion sweeping through the caterpillars body. Metals contains a huge number of dislocations: these lines sweep through the metal allowing atomic planes to slip over each over, causing the metal to be permanently deformed. When metal is loaded, new dislocations are nucleated and some become trapped at obstacles. However, if the load is applied too quickly or the metal is too cold, then the dislocation lines do not have time to nucleate and move: instead whole planes of atoms are ripped apart, fracturing the metal. In a nuclear reactor, the fuel rods are cladded in a zirconium alloy: over time, hydrogen from water used to cool the fuel rods, diffuses into the zirconium and is attracted to dislocation lines and to any small cracks or notches in the metal. If the hydrogen concentration becomes too high, hydrogen atoms will clump together to form precipitates which block dislocation motion and can easily fracture. It is this complex interaction between, dislocations, diffusion, precipitate formation and fracture which I aim to simulate on a computer. This is possible by utilising the power of modern graphics cards (developed to play video games) which allow massively parallel simulations to be performed easily and at little cost. Even then it is only possible to simulate a very small volume of material. Traditional mechanical tests (bending or compressing pieces of metal) were always performed on large specimens, several millimetres in size, meaning it was simply not possible to simulate all the dislocations in the sample explicitly. In the last decade it has become possible to perform mechanical tests on samples that are only a few microns in size. The samples are so small, that by utilizing the power of modern graphics cards, it will be possible to simulate the experiment including every dislocation in the material explicitly, and watch how they interact with each other and with multiple precipitates. Being able to simulate an entire experiment at this level of detail is unprecedented and it will provide new insights into the details of what exactly goes on when metal deforms plastically and fractures. The fundamental new insights gained during the project will be used to develop more accurate engineering design rules for industry and involves close collaboration with scientists and engineers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, Imperial College London, Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in Oxfordshire, The National Physical Laboratory in Teddington and Rolls-Royce in Derby.


Seah M.P.,National Physical Laboratory United Kingdom
Journal of Physical Chemistry C | Year: 2013

An analysis is made of the sputtering yields of materials for argon gas cluster ion beams used in SIMS and XPS as a function of the beam energy, E, and the cluster size, n. The analysis is based on the yield data for the elements Si and Au, the inorganic compound SiO2, and the organic materials Irganox 1010, the OLED HTM-1, poly(styrene), poly(carbonate), and poly(methyl methacrylate). The argon primary ions have cluster sizes, n, in the range 100-16 000 and beam energies, E, from 2.5 to 80 keV. It is found that the elemental and compound data expressed as the yields, Y, of atoms sputtered per primary ion may all be described by a simple universal equation: Y/n = (E/An) q/[1 + (E/An)q-1] where the parameters A and q are established by fitting. The sputtering yields of the three organic materials are given as yield volumes expressed in nm3. For these, an extra parameter B is included multiplying the right-hand side of the equation where B is found by fitting to be of the order (0.18 nm)3 to (0.26 nm) 3. This universal equation exhibits no threshold energy, and no deviation was observed from the equation, indicating that any threshold energy would have to be significantly below E/n = 1 eV per atom. The equation also shows that doubling the cluster size at the same energy per atom simply doubles the sputtering yield so that in this sense, and probably this sense alone, the sputtering effects are linearly additive. The parameter A is related, inversely, to the mean sputtered fragment size, and the low A values for organic materials are indicative of high yield volumes. For materials with low A values, the universal equation is close to a linear dependence on energy, and if that linear dependence is assumed, an apparent threshold energy is predicted and observed experimentally. © Published 2013 by the American Chemical Society.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: EPSRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 98.94K | Year: 2016

Polymer composite membranes containing nanostructured fillers have many potential applications in industrial sectors. For example, in emergent technologies ranging from carbon dioxide capture and sequestration to hydrogen purification, and for use in water desalination and vapor recovery systems, as well as in medical devices and smart sensors. Next-generation mixed-matrix membranes (MMMs) which incorporate porous metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), offer the unique opportunity for combining high selectivity and chemical tuneability of MOFs with the ease of processing and robustness intrinsic to conventional polymers. While the development of such MOF-polymer mixed-matrix membranes is in its infancy, there are already archetypal composite systems recently discovered that demonstrate substantial improvement in its functional performance (particularly gas/liquid permeability and selectivity properties). Much progress has been accomplished in this rapidly growing area. However, many important questions remain to be answered about its core mechanical-thermal properties and long-term chemical stability; its structure-function mechanical correlation information is scarce and, hitherto membrane structural integrity (under static or dynamic loading) is not well understood. This project will address the aforementioned problems, establishing an accurate knowledge of the underpinning physical properties, and pinpointing microscopic mechanisms that control the structural and functional performance of novel membranes. This research will yield systematic structure-function relationships, formulate innovative methodologies and detailed material model descriptions, which will enable prediction, rational design and engineering of new membranes. Resilient composite membranes featuring an improved damage tolerance coupled with optimal functionalities will enable many energy, environmental and multifunctional technologies benefitting the wider public.

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