Multi-disciplinary Centre for In-situ Processing Studies (CIPS)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Engineering Science


This grant will create a multi-disciplinary Centre for In-situ Processing Studies (CIPS) at the Research Complex at Harwell, to be led by Professors Alexander Korsunsky and Dermot O'Hare from the University of Oxford. It will enable a diverse team of scientists to work together to study processes throughout the life-cycle of a wide range of materials, from their chemistry and manufacture to the ways in which components may degrade during usage. It will draw on the unrivalled facilities at Harwell, including Diamond Light Source, for experiments with extremely bright X-rays, and the ISIS pulsed neutron source, for high neutron flux. By enabling experiments at these facilities to be performed under real processing conditions, and followed in real time, the Centre will enable researchers to obtain detailed, three-dimensional understanding of the mechanical and chemical behaviour during different processing techniques. This will allow better methods for manufacture and processing to be developed; new materials to be produced efficiently; and improved understanding and control of changes in materials over repeated usage. The Centre will span the disciplines of engineering science, materials, chemistry, and physics to collectively enable this new science to be pursued. It will allow researchers from a broad, collaborative team to come to Harwell to take advantage of new opportunities for X-ray, neutron and laser beam experiments. Many will come for focussed visits of a few weeks, during which they will be able to develop their methods in conjunction with specialists based at the Centre. During these visits, they will work with the two resident researchers, who will be developing new systematic ways to study processes with X-rays or neutrons as they occur, including the design of new cells in which each process can take place. One will specialise in complex chemical processes and the other in materials and engineering processing and data analysis, and thus bring a wide spectrum of knowledge and experience for the benefit of all participating groups. All disciplines share common requirements in terms of experimental techniques and data interpretation provisions, and all can learn from each other about the most effective ways to understand complex processes. By addressing these requirements and sharing expertise, the Centre will enable research in a broad range of interdisciplinary problems of manufacture and processing.The research programme of the Centre reflects the research activities and interests of a number of University research groups, not only in Oxford but also at Cambridge, Glasgow, Nottingham, St Andrews and Warwick. Their work ranges from understanding the structure and chemistry during charging and use of lithium-ion batteries to the many changes taking place during engineering processes such as casting and welding. Evolving technology, such as the production of nanoparticles, will also form a particularly demanding strand. As new possibilities for experiments continue to evolve, the Centre will match these with corresponding developments for using them to follow realistic chemical and materials processing as it takes place. We expect a number of 'world first' experiments to take place as a result of this grant.

Planned Impact

Our vision is the creation of a multi-disciplinary Centre for In-situ Processing Studies (CIPS) at the Research Complex at Harwell that will have lasting benefits to a wide community of researchers both within the UK and internationally. Within 5 years the greatest impact for the broad academic community will be the creation of a Centre of Excellence in complex sample environments for research at large scale facilities. We want to offer it as the place where all academics who are interested in in-situ study of materials, chemical syntheses or manufacturing could come for expert opinion. If X-rays, neutrons or laser-based science were applicable for these studies, then the Centre would be the natural place to begin developing ideas for new experiments, and to build new collaborations. This impact will derive from the development of state-of-the-art processing cells that will be designed and adjusted for in-situ use, and also from advanced analysis of large volumes of data. The involvement of new users will be increased through the provision of training in sample environment and the use of central facilities. We will obtain results that will impact on some fundamental and longstanding scientific questions. X-ray (as well neutron and laser) vision will give us unprecedented insight into interesting chemical and engineering processes as they unfold. Complex experiments of this kind, based on synchrotron, neutron and laser beams, cannot be prepared and run in a few days, which is the typical duration of a group's visit to the facilities. Instead, long and systematic preparation is required. Research into in-situ processing will benefit hugely from the application of novel sample environments that we will create, that will be coupled with advanced experimental techniques. We will develop in parallel, both the insight into important and difficult scientific questions in processing, and the ability to do process characterisation experiments efficiently and effectively. Within 5 years we will achieve these twin goals by the judicious development of strategic generic tools for in situ processing studies. Ultimately on the timescale of years to decades the work carried out at CIPS will have major relevance to industry. Manufacturers in many industries need to develop controllable, reliable and cost-effective methods of producing new chemicals, catalysts, alloys, composites, nanoparticles and other technological materials. We will appoint an Industrial Applications Fellow (IAF) for the full duration of the project. This post will be created to ensure that we are able to convey and convert the academic impact into the industrial sector. We shall inform as many of the relevant companies as possible of the work carried by the research groups involved at CIPS, including the experimental techniques and scientific discoveries. We will make every effort to foster ongoing dialogues to ensure continuous and meaningful input from industry, including surgeries and joint workshops. This will provide clearer visions: for the researchers at CIPS, of the industrial problems; for industrial practitioners, of the techniques being worked on at the Centre. We will take advantage of the concentration of high-tech companies around Harwell and use various opportunities for meeting potential beneficiaries (e.g. business breakfasts at Harwell and Milton Park), as well as events elsewhere (industry fora, professional organisation events and publications, etc.). We will be proactive in developing opportunities for collaborative projects with industry, consultancy contracts, spin-outs and patents, seeking industrial impact of the work. The ultimate aim is to ensure that the investment in the Centre contributes to wealth creation and competitive economy in the UK.


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Clark J.N. (2014) Imaging Lattice dynamics in individual nanocrystals in Optics InfoBase Conference Papers

Description In situ processing studies span multiple disciplines: engineering, materials, chemistry, physics. The project so far demonstrated the remarkable power of the methods available at large scale facilities (DLS, ISIS, CLF) for providing unprecedented insights. We carried out in situ chemical synthesis, in situ electrospinning of nanofibres, in situ strain analysis in a working internal combustion engine, in situ mechanical loading and thermal treatment of human dental tissues, etc.

The work is ongoing.
Exploitation Route The methods developed provide tools for improved understanding of both the fundamentals of processing science, and applications right across industry sectors.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Electronics,Energy,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

Description Our findings provided improved insight into such wide-ranging areas of human activity as internal combustion engines, chemical synthesis, and forensics. Our research results have been features in radio programmes and BBC TV series, in Diamond pod casts and Annual Review publications; and received best paper awards at international congresses.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Chemicals,Construction,Education,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology,Transport
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic

Description Birmingham Dental School 
Organisation University of Birmingham
Department School of Dentistry
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We advise colleagues at Birmingham School of Dentistry on modern nanoscale characterisation techniques, and implications of these novel approaches for clinical, diagnostic, therapeutic and prosthetic dentistry.
Collaborator Contribution We work closely with Birmingham School of Dentistry who provide access to expertise in clinical, diagnostic, therapeutic and prosthetic dentistry, and supply samples for our microscopy and X-ray studies.
Impact Multiple publications, joint designs of experiments
Description DLS 
Organisation Diamond Light Source
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We provide scientific leadership, ideas for tests, expertise and manpower for running complex experiments.
Collaborator Contribution Access to unique world class synchrotron beam lines.
Impact Multi-disciplinary - engineering, physics, chemistry; use of X-ray scattering, spectroscopy, imaging