The ISIS Second Target Station project has provided opportunities for local businesses like Oxford Instruments to expand their manufacturing knowledge and gain a competitive edge when tapping into new markets.
Neutron scattering is a tool used to study materials at the atomic level. It can be used to study the effect of magnetic fields on new materials developed for next generation mobile phones and computer chips.
This requires high-quality superconducting magnets with ambitious and challenging design parameters driven by the frontier science developments at ISIS. These magnets operate at very low temperatures (-269o C) and generate enormous magnetic fields. Keeping similar magnets cold traditionally requires large amounts of liquid helium, an increasingly expensive and scarce resource.
ISIS needed a supplier that could meet the stringent magnet design requirements and could also cost-effectively reduce the amount of liquid helium needed to keep magnets cold in the Second Target Station's instruments.
“This was a difficult problem that required a bespoke solution. It presented a huge investment risk for the supplier as nothing like it had been achieved before," said ISIS Scientist Oleg Kirichek.
Oxford Instruments has supplied equipment to ISIS for many years and was prepared to meet the challenge. Oxford Instruments not only provided ISIS with two state-of-the-art magnets but also collaborated with ISIS scientists to design a system to significantly reduce the consumption of liquid helium used when cooling them.
In traditional devices, liquid helium evaporates into helium gas which is vented from the system. The device from Oxford Instruments captures the evaporated gas and turns it back into liquid helium. This reduces costs and the frequency of manual refills, which can be hazardous if not done properly.
“Working with ISIS gave us access to some of the world's leading neutron scientists. Their knowledge and expertise in neutron scattering was crucial to the successful delivery of these innovative systems. It has also enabled us to expand our knowledge and develop a new system that we can offer to other facilities – giving us a competitive edge over other instrument suppliers," said John Burgoyne, Manager of the Magnets Business Group at Oxford Instruments.
“ISIS is a well known and prestigious facility so delivering these innovative systems on time has enhanced Oxford Instruments' reputation and credibility as world leaders in superconducting magnet systems," he said.
Research date: October 2009
To find out more about using ISIS for commercial research, contact Dr Christopher Frost.