NPL and ISIS collaboration to provide new insights into important materials

Tuesday 18 February 2014

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) (Courtesy of NPL)

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) (Courtesy of NPL)
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Our understanding of materials and how they perform under different conditions will be enhanced thanks to a new research collaboration announced today between the UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s ISIS centre, the UK’s pulsed neutron and muon source.

NPL have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Oxfordshire based ISIS facility to both increase collaboration between the two organisations and jointly develop innovative capabilities to enhance our understanding of materials, particularly multiferroics, and how they perform under different conditions. Long term the research findings from the collaboration should be of real benefit to UK industry in the fields of micro-electronics with the aim of making computers (including mobile devices) smaller and faster while using less power.

Our desire for smaller, more powerful computing devices and the need to reduce power consumption are pushing current materials to the limit. Multiferroics are a promising group of materials for taking us to the next generation of devices such as these. Before these materials can be used we need to understand their properties at the atomic scale. This collaboration will bring us closer to that goal.

Professor Sean Langridge, ISIS Division Head, says, “I’m delighted that the signing of this agreement will strengthen the relationship between ISIS and NPL. Not only will this advance our atomic scale knowledge of technologically relevant materials, it will capitalise on the expertise of both ISIS and NPL scientists and help us build new capabilities for our user community.”

Dr Brian Bowsher, NPL’s Managing Director welcomed this agreement. He said “ISIS is recognised as the leading short pulse spallation facility in the world and will be critical for the future development of neutron science in Europe over the next two decades. NPL has also being looking at the metrology requirements over this timescale in its “Metrology for the 2020s” strategy.  We see exciting opportunities to work with ISIS, notably in materials science – particularly for electronic and functional materials. This collaboration is a great example of two internationally-leading government laboratories working together for maximum benefit:  this collaboration should enhance the outputs of our National Measurement System programmes and generate greater impact for both STFC and NPL.”

Dr Brian Bowsher, Managing Director of NPL (Courtesy of NPL)

Dr Brian Bowsher, Managing Director of NPL (Courtesy of NPL)
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Initially NPL and ISIS scientists plan to perform simultaneous, real time measurements of high resolution neutron diffraction patterns and electric polarization on relevant technological materials. There is considerable interest in multiferroic materials for use in computing and communications applications where an understanding of the magnetic structure is important and where neutron diffraction can provide significant insights. It is hoped that combining NPL and ISIS expertise in developing a new measurement technique will bring new understanding to the couplings at play in these important materials and prove valuable for the development of new devices including mobile computers, sensors, actuators and memory devices.

Professor Markys Cain, Science Area Leader for Functional Materials at NPL, says ‘I have collaborated with scientists at ISIS for over a decade and am very excited about the opportunity that this MOU brings in creating new links between materials scientists and metrologists at NPL and the unique facilities and scientific excellence at ISIS. In our first collaboration NPL’s Functional Materials team are working with the beamline scientists on the WISH instrument, bringing new in situ dielectric polarisation measurements of ferroelectrics and multiferroics to be coupled to the neutron diffraction capabilities of this world class beamline.’ 


Contact details:

Lucy Stone, Deputy Media Manager, STFC.
Tel: 01235 445627

ISIS is a world-leading centre for research in the physical and life sciences at the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory near Oxford in the United Kingdom. Our suite of neutron and muon instruments gives unique insights into the properties of materials on the atomic scale. We support a national and international community of more than 3000 scientists for research into subjects ranging from clean energy and the environment, pharmaceuticals and health care, through to nanotechnology and materials engineering, catalysis and polymers, and on to fundamental studies of materials.

We use the technique of neutron scattering.  Neutrons tell us where atoms are and how they are moving.  By studying how materials work at the atomic level, we can better understand their every-day properties – and so make new materials tailor-made for particular uses. ISIS also produces muons for use in a similar way, providing additional information on how materials work at the atomic scale.

About STFC
The Science and Technology Facilities Council is keeping the UK at the forefront of international science and tackling some of the most significant challenges facing society such as meeting our future energy needs, monitoring and understanding climate change, and global security.

The Council has a broad science portfolio and works with the academic and industrial communities to share its expertise in materials science, space and ground-based astronomy technologies, laser science, microelectronics, wafer scale manufacturing, particle and nuclear physics, alternative energy production, radio communications and radar.

STFC operates or hosts world class experimental facilities including the ISIS pulsed neutron source, the UK Central Laser Facility, and LOFAR.  STFC is also the majority shareholder in Diamond Light Source Ltd.

It enables UK researchers to access leading international science facilities by funding membership of international bodies including European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN), the Institut Laue Langevin (ILL), European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) and the European Southern Observatory (ESO) as well as being the UK contributor to CERN, home of the Large Hadron Collider . 

STFC is one of seven publicly-funded research councils.  It is an independent, non-departmental public body of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

Follow us on Twitter at @STFC_Matters

About NPL

NPL is the UK's National Measurement Institute, and is a world-leading centre of excellence in developing and applying the most accurate measurement standards, science and technology available. For more than a century NPL has developed and maintained the nation's primary measurement standards. These standards underpin the National Measurement System infrastructure of traceability throughout the UK and the world that ensures accuracy and consistency of measurement.

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