NNUF2a: Facility for Radioactive Materials Surfaces (FaRMS)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Interface Analysis Centre


FaRMS consists of two, coupled, state-of-the-art pieces of equipment: a multi-chamber deposition system capable of magnetron sputtering and direct e-beam evaporation of actinide materials; and a state-of-the-art XPS system, capable of high sensitivity depth profiling and lateral mapping.

FaRMS will be a unique, world-leading facility that enables researchers to study the surfaces of materials, containing the heaviest naturally occurring elements. This instrument will be able both to synthesise and interrogate these surfaces from the Angstrom to the micron length scale. The combination of several sputter sources, electron-beam evaporators in a controlled vacuum environment, with substrate heating, will allow the accessibility of a wide range of material parameters. Combined with a careful choice of substrate, users will be able to design engineer their sample system. It is possible to grow single elements; single crystals, engineer the strain, access new crystallographic phases; to deposit sequentially to build heterostructures; deposit simultaneously to make alloys, compounds, impurity engineer; reactively deposit to grow oxides, nitrides, hydrides, single crystals, polycrystals, polyepitaxy for grain engineering. This will all be possible in FaRMS with thickness control at the sub-Angstrom level. In-situ residual gas analysis and RHEED allows the user to monitor vacuum performance and crystallographic structure of the deposited material, in-situ.

The deposition is coupled with a state-of-the-art XPS capability that will be able to identify the chemical states of nuclear materials surfaces in high resolution, with the ability to depth profile through interfaces and focus to laterally map across the sample surface. The XPS will be integrated with the deposition facility to create FaRMS, allowing users to both characterise as-deposited surfaces, or to access the XPS end-station to investigate their own sample systems.

Oxidation, dissolution, pitting, cracking, species migration, hydriding, interaction with water - these are all surface/interfacial phenomena of crucial importance across the nuclear sector. The proposed FaRMS instrument will be the most advanced actinide surface synthesis/characterisation system in the world. It will help researchers across academia and industry solve some of the most complex actinide surface reactions and interface behaviours, which are relevant to stored nuclear waste materials, potential future fission fuel designs, and fusion materials. Results from FaRMS could positively influence UK policy in these areas.

We hope that a cutting-edge facility, such as FaRMS, will help to excite and enthuse the next generation of nuclear researchers, providing training in advanced materials techniques and helping to underpin our basic knowledge of the behaviour of some of the most complicated materials known to man.


10 25 50
publication icon
Springell R (2023) A review of uranium-based thin films in Advances in Physics

publication icon
Harding L (2023) Epitaxial stabilisation of uranium silicide line compounds in Thin Solid Films

publication icon
Gilroy E (2021) Magnetic anisotropy in Fe/U and Ni/U bilayers in Physical Review B

publication icon
Lawrence Bright E (2022) Oxidation and passivation of the uranium nitride (001) surface in Corrosion Science

publication icon
Lawrence Bright E (2023) Resonant inelastic x-ray scattering from U3O8and UN. in Journal of physics. Condensed matter : an Institute of Physics journal

publication icon
Lander GH (2021) Resonant inelastic x-ray spectroscopy on UO2 as a test case for actinide materials. in Journal of physics. Condensed matter : an Institute of Physics journal

publication icon
Chaney D (2021) Tuneable correlated disorder in alloys in Physical Review Materials

Description This award is for a new facility, unique to the UK and one of only a handful in the world, used for the deposition and characterisation of nuclear materials surfaces. Currently, this is free at the point of access for any nuclear-related research and has contributed to eight new projects with collaborators across the UK in both industry and academia (in just the first year of operation!). There have already been seven publications, from direct use of the facility by both internal (to University of Bristol) and external research groups. The facility is part of a much larger grouping of National Nuclear User Facilities and this has been one of the most important steps forward for UK nuclear research in the last few decades, as we now have a network of the most advanced experimental equipment in the world and this network is really driving new collaborations and new research projects, often with direct industrial involvement.
Exploitation Route New frontiers of basic nuclear research, published in leading international journals by academic research groups.

Data to inform industry on nuclear materials performance for reporting and eventual implementation (typically this could be to influence nuclear fuel design or nuclear waster treatment strategies).

Research across Academic/industrial partnerships is likely to be used to influence decision making and policy with regards to future fuel and waste strategies in the UK.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Energy,Environment

URL https://nnuf-farms.bristol.ac.uk/
Description Flexible method of production for thin film targets - phase 1
Amount £10,000 (GBP)
Funding ID GC_611 
Organisation National Nuclear Laboratory 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2021 
End 03/2022
Description Flexible method of production for thin film targets - phase 2
Amount £79,000 (GBP)
Funding ID GC_611 
Organisation National Nuclear Laboratory 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2022 
End 03/2023
Description AWE on material delivery 
Organisation Atomic Weapons Establishment
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Operation of facility
Collaborator Contribution Supply of starting pure U metal targets
Impact General operation of facility for most U-based material synthesis is thanks to material supply from AWE.
Start Year 2021
Description Oxidation of U oxides and MOX surrogates 
Organisation European Synchrotron Radiation Facility
Country France 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Sample synthesis and staffing of experiments at the synchrotron
Collaborator Contribution Design and implementation of final experiments and lead on research project
Impact Successful synchrotron experiments to be followed with journal publication.
Start Year 2022
Description TEM of U-thin film materials 
Organisation University of Oxford
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Thin film synthesis and help in preparation of TEM samples
Collaborator Contribution TEM foil preparation at Bristol and then final TEM experiments at Oxford.
Impact TEM experiments on U-based foils, prepared at the University of Bristol.
Start Year 2022
Description Uranium nitride fuel irradiation behaviour 
Organisation University of Liverpool
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Sample synthesis and training on facility. X-ray characterisation and training in analysis.
Collaborator Contribution First trained external expert facility user. Carried out sample irradiations at Surrey Ion Beam Centre. Publications in preparation.
Impact Set of uranium nitride thin film polycrystal and single crystal films synthesised. Student at Liverpool trained to be an expert user of FaRMS facility. Publications will follow from irradiation work at Liverpool/Surrey Ion Beam Centre and thermal conductivity measurements at Bristol
Start Year 2022
Description X-ray free electron laser experiments on thin foils 
Organisation University of York
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution New vacuum deposition system design/modification. Sample synthesis and x-ray characterisation.
Collaborator Contribution Research project lead on XFEL experiments on Cu and Zn foils.
Impact New single source deposition chamber design/implementation for UoB and successful 'thick thin-film' sample synthesis by sputtering for eventual deployment on XFEL experiments, lead by York university.
Start Year 2022