Scientists use super x-ray to develop new materials

Scientists at the University are working closely with the UK’s ‘super’ x-ray laboratory – known as Diamond Light Source – to develop new materials that could revolutionise computer memory.

Research from Dr Gavin Mountjoy, of the School of Physical Sciences, is contributing to an ongoing project to create a new form of computer memory that would provide more memory using less power.

The £500m Diamond Light Source, based at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire, is the UK’s only synchrotron facility, used to carry out experiments with X-rays on materials for a range of applications from biology to engineering.

Dr Mountjoy’s study involves a new material based on titanium dioxide, which is the main pigment in white paint. Making use of the incredibly bright X-rays at Diamond Light Source, researchers can reveal previously unseen details in materials – much like looking at banknotes with ultraviolet light.

Using this technique, Dr Mountjoy is able to better understand how the atoms in the new material change positions when the memory is being written.

Dr Mountjoy is a member of Kent’s Functional Materials Group, which now features a number of other projects making use of X-rays to study new materials with a broad range of possible applications. These include another project by Dr Mountjoy to develop new materials for the safe storage of nuclear waste.