The understanding of advanced materials and how they perform under different conditions will be enhanced thanks to a new research collaboration between the Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and the National Physical Laboratory (NPL).
ISIS Instruments - click to enlarge (image courtesy of STFC)
NPL has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with STFC to work with the Oxfordshire based ISIS facility, the UK's pulsed neutron and muon source, to both increase collaboration between the two organisations and jointly develop innovative capabilities to enhance our understanding of advanced materials, particularly multi-ferroics, and how they perform under different conditions. Long term, the research collaboration aims to make computers (including mobile devices) smaller and faster while using less power. These findings from the collaboration should be of real benefit to UK industry in the fields of micro-electronics.
The desire for smaller, more powerful computing devices and the need to reduce power consumption are pushing current materials to the limit. Multiferroics are a promising group of materials for taking us to the next generation of computing devices. However, before these materials can be used, we need to understand their properties at the atomic scale. This collaboration will lead us closer to that goal.
Dr Brian Bowsher, NPL's Managing Director, welcomed this agreement. He said: "ISIS is recognised as the leading short pulse spallation facility in the world and will be critical for the future development of neutron science in Europe over the next two decades. NPL has also been looking at the metrology requirements over this timescale in its 'Metrology for the 2020s' strategy. We see exciting opportunities to work with ISIS, notably in materials science - particularly for electronic and functional materials. This collaboration is a great example of two internationally-leading government laboratories working together for maximum benefit: this collaboration should enhance the outputs of our National Measurement System programmes and generate greater impact for both STFC and NPL."
Professor Sean Langridge, ISIS Division Head at STFC, said: "I'm delighted that the signing of this agreement will strengthen the relationship between STFC and NPL. Not only will this advance our atomic scale knowledge of technologically relevant materials, it will capitalise on the expertise of both ISIS and NPL scientists and help us build new capabilities for our user community."
Initially, NPL and ISIS scientists plan to perform simultaneous, real-time measurements of high resolution neutron diffraction patterns and electric polarisation on relevant technological materials. There is considerable interest in multiferroic materials for use in computing and communications applications where an understanding of the magnetic structure is important and where neutron diffraction can provide significant insights. It is hoped that combining NPL and STFC ISIS expertise in developing a new measurement technique will bring new understanding to the couplings at play in these important materials and prove valuable for the development of new devices, including mobile computers, sensors, actuators and memory devices.
Professor Markys Cain, Science Area Leader for Functional Materials at NPL, said: "I have collaborated with scientists at ISIS for over a decade and am very excited about the opportunity that this brings in creating new links between materials scientists and metrologists at NPL and the unique facilities and scientific excellence at STFC ISIS. In our first collaboration, NPL's Functional Materials team are working with the beamline scientists at ISIS on the WISH instrument, bringing new in situ dielectric polarisation measurements of ferroelectrics and multiferroics to be coupled to the neutron diffraction capabilities of this world class beamline."