Recent News

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H atoms in V rich precipitates

18th March 2017

Direct Observation of Individual Hydrogen Atoms at Trapping Sites in a Ferritic Steel

Hydrogen embrittlement (HE) is one of the most devastating and unpredictable, yet least understood, mechanisms of failure experienced by engineering components. The presence of hydrogen leads to a severe degradation in mechanical properties and consequently a loss in structural integrity of a vast range of metals and alloys.  Despite considerable research over decades, the precise mechanisms responsible for the embrittling process are still not understood. A key factor limiting our understanding is the difficulty in experimentally observing the distribution of hydrogen within a material, particularly at the atomic scale. Even ultra-high resolution electron microscopy cannot distinguish hydrogen atoms from the surrounding material in engineering materials. The Oxford Atom Probe group, working with colleagues at Sheffield, Zurich and Brisbane, report in Science the use of isotopic doping for the unambiguous 3D characterisation of individual hydrogen atoms within a ferritic steel.  The research demonstrates the first direct atomic-scale observation of the precise manner in which a microstructural feature acts to trap hydrogen, in this case within the core of carbides. The techniques developed are not limited to steels, and may prove significant for other technologically relevant systems, such as nickel-based superalloys and titanium alloys where hydrogen can play an important role in degrading in-service performance. 

Sir Michael Fallon opening CFAS

3rd March 2017

Opening of new Oxford Centre for Applied Superconductivity

The Oxfordshire region’s international strength in applied superconductivity technology has been boosted by the opening of a new £6.5M Oxford University initiative, the  Centre for Applied Superconductivity (CfAS) funded through the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnerships’s Growth Deal with the Government. CfAS was formally opened on Monday 27th February by Mr Nigel Tipple of the LEP at an event attended by the Secretary of State for Defence Sir Michael Fallon. Much of the UK’s strength in exploiting the unique properties of superconductors is based in a 20 mile radius around Oxford, and the new CfAS laboratories in the Departments of Materials and Physics will allow us to investigate new superconducting products and processes, to provide world-leading problem solving expertise for industry, and to train new generations of technicians and scientists for the growing number of Oxfordshire companies working in this increasingly important technology field. The Centre has already established research projects with leading local companies in the sector, including Siemens Magnet Technology, Oxford Instruments and Tokamak Energy, and representatives of these companies attended the opening event. These projects include the use of new materials in high performance superconducting magnets, designing replacement materials in response to changes in regulations, and in the use of superconductors at very low temperatures in new quantum technologies, including advanced sensors and meteorology.

Professor Chris Grovenor, one of the directors of CfAS, said: “We are very encouraged by the way industry has engaged with us, both in Oxfordshire and overseas. We are showing we have the expertise to contribute to the development of technical solutions across a wide range of superconductivity applications. We are very grateful to the Government and to the Oxfordshire LEP for supporting this new relationship between the university and our industrial partners.”

Also see the Oxford University News report of this event.

Rosalind Frankin

28th February 2017

Materials part of Rosalind Franklin Institute

The department is to play a role in a new, government-funded research facility, the Rosalind Franklin Institute (RFI). The RFI will be a national centre of excellence in technology development and innovation in which physical scientists, engineers and life scientists work together to develop and apply new techniques and instrumentation in health and life sciences. Professor Angus Kirkland will lead the Correlative Imaging Science theme that integrates key information from optical, X-ray and electron microscopes in both spatial and time domains. A key component will be the design and construction of a new electron microscope with a pulsed source that will complement the department’s existing involvement in the electron Physical Sciences Imaging Centre at Harwell.

Also see Oxford University News article.

CFAS equipment

16th February 2017

Centre for Applied Superconductivity: new PLD and MFM equipment

The Centre for Applied Superconductivity welcomes two new major experimental facilities which extend our capabilities in the synthesis and characterisation of superconducting materials: a Pulsed Laser Deposition (PLD) system and a low-temperature Magnetic Force Microscope (MFM).

The PLD is a versatile tool for thin film growth of a wide range of materials and initially it will be used to explore the growth of novel superconducting nitride films for quantum device applications.

The MFM is a high resolution tool for imaging the local magnetic properties of materials. It operates within a cryostat at temperatures down to 4K, with a 7T/3T superconducting vector magnet providing a versatile environment for investigating magnetic flux line interactions in superconducting materials.

Stephen Heidari-Robinson

7th December 2016

Senior Research Fellow in Energy Technology and Policy

The department is delighted to welcome Mr Stephen Heidari-Robinson as an Adjunct Senior Research Fellow in Energy Technology and Policy. Stephen has first-hand experience of setting national energy policy as the former UK Prime Minister David Cameron's energy and environment personal adviser.  In this role, he was one of the architects of the UK's energy generation strategy and decarbonisation plan, and he supported Secretary of State for Energy, Amber Rudd, at the Paris climate talks (COP21).  Stephen is a strong advocate for the pressing need for electric vehicles (EV) to improve local air quality and to reduce global carbon emissions, and he will work with groups in the department and across the University to accelerate EV implementation. Stephen spent 9 years as a leader in McKinsey and Company's energy practice and was a vice president at Schlumberger, one of the world's leading oil field services and technology company.

ePSIC

8th September 2016

electron Physical Science Imaging Centre (ePSIC) opening ceremony

A pioneering new centre for the study of nanoscale materials involving the Department has opened on the Harwell Science Campus, boosting the UK's world-leading science and technology infrastructure. ePSIC's two state-of-the-art electron microscopes will provide top-of-the-line resolution down to 0.5 Angstroms for research groups looking to determine the atomic structure and characteristics of technologically important materials.

Read full Department of Materials News article.

Nuclear Innovation Bootcamp

22nd August 2016

Nuclear Innovation Bootcamp

Recently graduated doctoral student Jing Hu was one of only 25 students worldwide selected to attend the 1st Nuclear Innovation Bootcamp at Berkeley in August 2016. Jing comments “The bootcamp was amazing. I’ve learnt so much in the two weeks” You can also watch her team make their group pitch at the closing ceremony.

The movement of Dislocations in aluminium foil

14th August 2016

Royal Society Archive: Lawrence Bragg’s Films

The Royal Society has released some films about and featuring Sir William Lawrence Bragg (including his son), one of which features the research of this Department's Professor Sir Peter Hirsch and Professor Mike Whelan  entitled "The movement of dislocations in aluminium foils".

The Bragg film archive also includes films of the classic bubble-raft model of close packing in metal crystals.

Nuclear Research Group Photo

28th June 2016

Advanced Nuclear Materials Platform Grant

A team led by Professor Steve Roberts has been awarded a 4 year, £1.3M Platform Grant by the EPSRC. The grant will be used to underpin the strength and activities of the department’s team of over fifty researchers working on advanced structural materials for applications in nuclear fission and fusion reactors. The funding will enable us to support early-career postdoctoral researchers (ECRs) in a flexible manner tailored to their individual career trajectories, resources for mentorship, opportunities for new skills training, and allow ECRs to develop their own research ideas. 

Clustering in W

14th March 2016

Distinguished Scientist Award

Congratulations to Professor George Smith FRS who has been honoured as the 2016 Distinguished Scientist in Physical Science of the Microscopy Society of America. George will receive his award at Microscopy & Microanalysis 2016 meeting in Columbus, Ohio USA on July 25, followed by a plenary address. 

Professor Smith's talk will cover recent atom probe tomography studies of irradiated tungsten, and in particular the issue of transmutation products that arise when tungsten is exposed to neutron bombardment. The key reaction products (in decreasing order) are Re, Os and Ta. Re is known to form clusters (and eventually precipitates) which embrittle the materials. It turns out that Os substantially enhances the clustering process, while Ta inhibits it.  Such studies of ternary (and eventually quaternary) alloys are vital to the development of safe and reliable materials for eventual fusion energy systems.