A SQUID Magnetometer for Quantum Materials, superconductors, molecular magnets and excited states

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Oxford Chemistry


All solids and molecules interact to some extent with magnetic fields. In many simple solids such as sodium chloride where there are no unpaired or delocalised electrons the interaction is very weak, but in compounds such as magnetite, Fe3O4, one of the earliest "functional materials" the arrangement of atoms and electrons makes the interaction very strong, so it was used by the ancients as a compass. The development of new compositions of matter that might eventually be used as functional materials in technological devices requires measurement of their magnetic properties, along with, for example, their electronic conductivity and their crystal structures, in order to understand why they behave as they do. These measurements enable the development of new compositions with enhanced physical properties. The types of compound that will be measured using the proposed state-of-the-art instrument will range from powders and single crystals of new complex oxides and sulfides exhibiting diverse magnetic phenomena such as ferromagnetism, antiferromagnetism, spin-glass behaviour and superconductivity, to complex molecules which might have applications in areas ranging from as quantum computing to unravelling the effects of magnetic fields on avian navigation. The instrument will be key to capitalising on the unique properties of superconductors which have enabled a revolution in medical imaging using MRI scanners, and for which further developments using new superconductors and improved superconducting joints to achieve higher quality imaging will form a key part of the University's world-leading research effort in the coming years.
The new state-of-the-art instrument is more efficient than the now-obsolete models and has much-enhanced functionality and will ensure the success of the University's ground-breaking research across a wide range of themes and will feed into the research of the major facilities at ISIS and the Diamond Light Source, and will attract a wider range of users.

Planned Impact

As well as the diverse impacts on the academic community (see Academic Beneficiaries section), this investment will also provide benefit across four broad groups, aligning with the Productive, Resilient and Healthy Nation outcomes of the EPSRC's delivery framework to deliver prosperity to the UK:

1. Industry
Access to emerging functional materials, such as magnetic, spintronic, optical and superconducting materials, will benefit industry by leading to improved and new products, giving UK companies competitive advantages.
For example in the field of applied superconductivity, the measurements enabled by this equipment will be fed into the research on new magnet systems by local industries which are aimed at producing advances in magnet systems for medical imaging using MRI and for energy applications (e.g. Tokamak Energy). This work will have truly global impact.
The work will also impact on current and future technologies that make use of new compounds and materials. These are very diverse and include battery materials for energy storage, multiferroic materials for switching and sensors and magnetic molecules for potential spintronic applications and medical imaging technologies.
These advances have the potential to develop multiple industrial sectors, generating long-term economic growth and jobs for the UK (Productive Nation P1, P2, P3).

2. Industrial and academic users of major international facilities.
The major users of the magnetometer are users of the Diamond Light Source, the ISIS Neutron and Muon Facility, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, the Institut Laue-Langevin neutron source. These facilities are of strategic national importance as they provide tools and infrastructure for the whole academic and industrial community across physics, chemistry, biology, materials science and engineering. Their success depends upon the quality of the science performed on the instruments, which will be enhanced by our ability to characterise the samples in detail using in-house techniques including magnetometry, in order to optimise the experiments performed at these facilities.

3. The Next generation of academics and engineers.
Graduate students and post-doctoral researchers will acquire enhanced technical skills through access to, and training on, state-of-the-art equipment, enhancing the UK skills base. UK Companies will benefit from access to highly trained personnel (Resilient Nation R2).

4. Society.
Health: Research into persistent superconducting joints in collaboration with industrial partners in the Centre for Applied Superconductivity will have significant impact in enabling the design of new ultra-high field magnets offering developments such as limb-scale MRI and magnetic drug targeting (Healthy Nation H3).
Energy: Access to cleaner energy. Access to better energy storage materials will increase uptake of renewables and reduce the world's reliance on carbon emitting fossil fuels and improving energy sustainability (Resilient Nation R1).
Intellectual culture: Ever since Gilbert's "De Magnete" there has been a public fascination with magnetism. Nearly all members of the public have been fascinated with magnets and magnetic materials from a young age. To inspire the next generation of scientists there is a need to build on this introduction to this important field by communicating the importance of research into magnetic materials and superconductors. In addition to conventional academic dissemination routes, part of our impact plan is to build on the work we have done already through popular publications on magnetism and superconductivity and schools outreach demonstrations by collaborating with the Oxford Sparks outreach team. This is in addition to the routes (university website and press office) our institution provides for communicating to the public important new discoveries which may arise from the research enabled by the magnetometer.


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Wili N (2019) ELDOR-detected NMR beyond hyperfine couplings: a case study with Cu(ii)-porphyrin dimers. in Physical chemistry chemical physics : PCCP

Description The tuning of the superconducting properties of intercalates of Bi2Se3 have been investigated. This work is not yet ready for publication. Several further investigations using this new instrument will be published in due course.
Exploitation Route Magnetometry experiments will be fed into a range of research projects spanning chemistry, physics and materials. The instrument has already revolutionised the magnetometry facilities in the university and is being used for a range of projects.
Sectors Chemicals,Electronics,Energy,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

Description Experiments have been carried out by industrial partners (Johnson Matthey) as part of their Li-ion battery research
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Chemicals,Energy
Impact Types Economic