School of Physical Sciences secures over £500k funding to accelerate research

Olivia Miller

Kent’s School of Physical Sciences (SPS) has been awarded a three-year grant from The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to fast-track its work on magnetic cooling materials.

The Saines Group, part of the Materials for Energy and Electronics (MEE) Research Group within SPS has been awarded the funding of over half a million pounds to continue its ground-breaking work into magnetocalorics – materials that efficiently cool at ultra-low temperatures.

Refrigeration is central to modern society – making hot climates habitable, preserving food, and facilitating medical scanners and quantum computing. With over a tenth of Britain’s electricity estimated to go to cooling, at a cost of over £5 billion a year, research on more sustainable and efficient cooling methods is pivotal. This has been acknowledged by the inclusion of ‘clean cooling’ in the UK Government’s clean growth strategy.

The EPSRC funding, which is part of a £622k collaboration with Professor Malte Grosche, Head of the Quantum Matter Group at the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge, will help the group develop magnetocaloric materials as an alternative to scarce and expensive liquid helium. Once optimised materials are found these will then be subject to further characterisation of the magnetic and physical properties at Cambridge with the aim of developing prototype cooling devices.

Dr Paul Saines, Group Leader of the MEE Research Group, said: ‘We are very grateful to EPSRC for funding this multidisciplinary project, which relies on our team’s expertise in materials chemistry and physics. This allows us to, in collaboration with leading researchers at Cambridge, develop a new group of magnetic cooling materials as needed to implement them in new cooling devices. If successful, this work will pave the way to more sustainable cooling in a vital but tricky regime for uses including medical resonance imaging.’

This project will commence in September 2020 and fund a postdoc and PhD student to study at Kent.