Magnetic Properties Measurement System for Manchester and National EPR Facility

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Chemistry


The magnetic properties of materials are of fundamental importance across all areas of physical science and, moreover, are of enormous technological importance. The measurement of these magnetic properties requires specialised instrumentation, and the most sensitive method is via "super-conducting quantum interference device" (SQUID) magnetometer methods. The proposal here is to purchase the latest model SQUID magnetometer that includes important features such as a closed-system (cryogen free) cryostat for magnet and sample cooling (removing unsustainable reliance on liquid helium), alternating current (AC) and vibrating sample magnetometer (VSM) options for dynamic measurements, sample rotation for structure-function relationships, optical excitation for multifunctional materials, and a very wide temperature range of study. The new apparatus will significantly enhance capability in magnetic measurements both in terms of speed of measurements (throughput of samples) and new types of measurements (e.g. accessibility to different timescales of dynamics of magnetic behaviour). The instrumentation requested is the most sensitive that is available commercially.
The new equipment will underpin a huge range of interdisciplinary science at The University of Manchester across chemistry, physics, materials, computer and earth sciences. Areas that will be supported include: magnetic properties on the nano- to micron-scale, from molecular to "artificial atom" (quantum dot) to thin-films and patterned arrays; new physics that results from this, including magnetic memory, or refrigeration, or frustration effects; new chemistry and the nature of chemical bonding involving actinide elements; spintronics; bioremediation of metal wastes into useful materials. Moreover, it will be used to characterise new materials that are being exploited in areas including lithography, data storage, and biomedical applications including via established SMEs. The new magnetometer will be incorporated into the EPSRC National EPR Facility, which will ensure the widest impact and UK national availability through an established mechanism. By housing it in the same laboratory as state-of-the-art EPR spectrometers (electron paramagnetic resonance, continuous wave and pulsed) the proposal will establish a hugely powerful scientific facility since these complementary methods are the two most powerful techniques for studying paramagnetic materials.

Planned Impact

The economy will benefit in the short-term via employment of early-career scientists trained on high-tech instrumentation across chemical, materials and IT sciences. Several of the groups involved are already involved in commercialisation of materials/devices that have relied on magnetic characterisation: for example work in molecular materials has led to a spin-out company for new resists for nanofabrication. Other projects are in exploratory stages of exploitation, with patents held, and these will be supported and developed further by the characterisation of new materials and devices. These include in areas as diverse as environmental and data storage applications.

Several of the projects that will be supported are aimed at improving quality of life through new products and technologies, for example, in new electronics facilitated by developments in new nanomagnetics and/or electronics based on materials from the molecular to quantum dot to thin-film scale. Other projects supported are aimed at environmental improvements alongside economic gains, e.g. via remediation of metal wastes into useful magnetic materials, or trapping and recycling of environmentally harmful pollutants. Work in radiochemistry which relies heavily on magnetic characterisation, is contributing to a better understanding of the chemistry and physical properties of actinide materials, and this is necessary to better understand technological and environmental aspects of these elements. We will contribute to public understanding of science through the School of Chemistry's innovative YouTube channel "CAMERA", aimed at increasing societal impact and communication, with new films explaining the importance of magnetic materials and how they are studied.

Early-career researchers (ECRs) will gain high-level skills and training in characterisation of magnetic materials and data modelling: these are highly transferable skills. In addition to hands-on training of researchers who will be making extensive use of the new equipment, we will run annual workshops that will alternate between practical (measurement, data handling, interpretation) and theoretical (e.g. Hamiltonian theory) aspects; these workshops will be open to ECRs across the UK, and places awarded based on EPSRC-funding and with a target of 50:50 gender balance.

The knowledge derived from the study of magnetic properties and materials will contribute directly to scientific advances in research areas covering several "Grand Challenges" in Chemical Sciences and Engineering, and in Physics, including "Dial-a-Molecule", "Directed Assembly of Extended Structures with Targeted Properties", "Utilising Carbon Dioxide in Synthesis and Transforming the Chemicals Industry", "Quantum Physics for New Quantum Technologies", and "Nanoscale Design of Functional Materials". The work supported is relevant to many of the areas identified in the EPSRC Balancing Capabilities strategy, and includes much that is world-leading and where the UK has a major reputation. These include: molecular magnetism, supramolecular chemistry, metal-organic frameworks, chemistry of the actinides, materials chemistry and nanomagnetism. These groups publish regularly in the highest impact journals (general and discipline specific) and this high profile, aided by press and outreach activities, helps to attract further funding and investment towards exploitation. Scientific developments also feed into software developments, which provides another important knowledge transfer pathway.


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