Measurements Platform for Materials at Multiple Extremes

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of Engineering


Electronic and magnetic materials are important to many current and likely future technologies e.g. superconductors for low energy power transmission and new magnets for sensors, information storage and future quantum computers. Exploration of properties at extremes of low (or high) temperature, high magnetic field and high pressure is important to discover new phenomena and to help understand current outstanding electronic and magnetic materials.

To do this we propose to construct the Measurements Platform for Materials at Multiple Extremes (MPMME) as a unique facility for measurements of electronic and magnetic properties under multiple extremes of temperature (down to 300 mK or up to 1000 K) and magnetic field (up to 14 T), and also pressure (up to 100 GPa). It will be essential for supporting current and future research on materials varying from heavy fermion superconductors to transition metal oxides to molecular magnets. The proposed MPMME has two parts;

1. A commercial instrument for physical property measurements (heat capacity, magnetic susceptibility, electronic and thermal transport) at extremes of temperature and field.

2. High pressure capabilities for transport and magnetic measurements will be added through auxiliary equipment designed and built in CSEC (the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Science at Extreme Conditions) which has a strong record of instrumentation design for high-pressure research. New pressure cells will provide state-of-the-art pressure capabilities for the MPMME such as non-metallic cells for high frequency AC measurements, and a Megabar diamond-anvil cell for very high pressures.

The discovery of new electronic and magnetic materials is a challenge requiring the combined skills of chemists, physicists, and engineers and the applicants have strong backgrounds in these different disciplines that will be combined to achieve our ambitious goal of discovering new materials with notable properties. UK and international collaborations will be strengthened by measurements made with the MPMME facility. It will also augment the training that we can provide to our students and PDRA's, and underpin equipment commercialisation and our outreach activities.

Planned Impact

The main expected impacts are;

Technological Impacts - the equipment will provide the platform for the development of new pressure cells for the wider community. We are innovators in this field and have sold pressure cells manufactured in house to other users including 5 miniature diamond anvil cells sold internationally or to central facilities in the last 5 years (value £50k). The new equipment will permit the development of new cells, particularly for magnetic measurements. A particularly exciting project that the equipment will support will be development of non-metallic cells using advanced engineering polymers and composites for making the cell body. This will enable AC magnetisation to be measured at high pressure which is currently only possible at low frequencies <10 Hz. This may have impact in enabling other AC measurements to be extended to high pressures.

Training Impacts - the equipment will provide valuable training for the PDRAs and PhD students that will use it. Trained scientists with PhD and postdoctoral experience are valuable to the UK economy particularly in the materials and equipment sector. Our recent PhD graduates have been employed by UK instrumentation companies and one has founded a high-technology SME. One of our PDRAs will be assigned to help train PhD students to use the equipment including routine maintenance tasks to ensure the training is disseminated widely. This enhances the transferrable skills of the PDRA. We would expect around 50 PhD students/PDRAs to benefit from use of the equipment annually.

Outreach Impacts - the most direct impact on outreach will be through showing the equipment and our research first-hand to visitors. We plan to organise tours of our facilities for our industrial associates (following their expression of interest) when they visit for CDT careers events (every 18 months). This could help establish potential new areas of collaboration as well as informing the associates with the knowledge to be effective ambassadors on our behalf. The university also has an annual open-day for the general public. We will encourage our students and PDRAs to display introductory posters on their research close to the equipment to improve the experience of such visits. We foster outreach to schools and science fairs that are student led and feature demonstrations illustrating high-pressure work. For example, a team of our PhD students contributed a talk illustrated with interactive activities as part of the Explorathon 2015 at Edinburgh Zoo. The new equipment will help to inspire future efforts in this direction.


10 25 50