School of Physical Sciences

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Our Facilities and Services

The School of Physical Sciences has a wide range of modern facilities that can be used by researchers or industry. We also provide consultancy services to businesses and are always keen to hear about potential collabarative research projects with industrial partners. If you're interested in using our equipment for research or for your business please get in touch for more information.


Services for business and industry

The School of Physical Sciences have provided consultancy services to businesses for more than two decades. Services offered utilise state of the art laboratory equipment operated by our experienced experimental staff.

Any equipment listed on the tabs above can potentially be used for your business. Email Dr Stuart Gibson for more information or if you are unsure if we can help you. For researchers, email your interest in using our equipment to Dr Stuart Gibson and he will contact the relevant research group.

The work carried out [by the School of Physical Sciences] has allowed Hilger Crystals to regain its position in a very niche area for X ray security imaging.

~ Jim Telfer, Managing Director of Hilger Crystals

We also welcome interest in potential collaborative research projects with industrial partners. Previous projects have attracted financial support from the Technology Strategy Board and Kent Innovation Voucher scheme.
Click here for a case study on our highly successful Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Hilger Crystals.

Contact us

Dr Stuart Gibson; Director of Innovation and Enterprise

Optics Facilities

  • Optical tables: 7 vibration isolation optical table systems and several other plates.
  • Optical sources: Many semiconductor and fibre lasers/amplifiers, different lasers, tunable laser source for fluorescence lifetime imaging, large bandwidth sources such as superluminiscent diodes and Amplified Spontaneous Emission sources, and an extremely large bandwidth source, from NKT Photonics, Titanium Sapphire lasers; Argon laser; CO2 laser; He-Ne lasers.
  • Optical measuring instrumentation: Two fibre input large band optical spectrum analyzers, a double monochromator, PC controlled spectrometer, four power-meters.
  • Electronic measuring instrumentation: RF spectrum analyzers up to 20 GHz, oscilloscopes up to 20 GHz, network analyzer up to 500 MHz, four Lock-in Amplifiers, Ultrafast photodetectors up to 20 GHz, several digital 1 GHz oscilloscopes (HP and LeCroy) and 10 low frequency spectrum analyzers.
  • Fibre optic processing tools: Three fusion splicer units, a Vytran glass processing oven and accessories for cutting, cleaving and inspecting the fibre.
  • Scanning devices: Resonant and galvanometer scanners, sub-micrometer and micrometer PC controlled translation stages, sophisticated computer facilities, including a computer equipped with the Zemax optical design package.
  • Clean rooms: There is a class 1000 clean-room complex and two class 100 laminar flow benches. The clean rooms are equipped with a recently installed CO2 laser for fibre tapering and a recently purchased glass processing oven, Vytran, to cleave fibre and assemble and process optical components such as GRIN lenses and precision optical microscopes.
  • Fully functional OCT systems: There are several fully functional OCT systems, such as: 1300 nm OCT system on cart, with movable arm, for anterior chamber, skin and art investigations; 1300 nm OCT systems for histology, 820 nm versatile in scanning (T, A, B and C-scans) on a chin rest and a Fourier domain OCT system. Two swept source OCT systems at 1050 nm and 1300 nm. Parallel projects on eye imaging in the group will feed expertise into the fellow project.
  • Highly-qualified mechanical and electronic workshops: The Fellow will have access to the electronic and mechanical workshops. The Electronic workshop is equipped with a computer controlled milling machine for prototype construction of electronic boards.
  • Office: Office space is provided for all AOG researchers, including access to telephones, copiers and fax machines. The entire School is computerized; all computers are connected over a local area network (LAN) with multiple printers.
  • Digital processing: Special computers are equipped with purposely designated interfaces, frame grabbers and imaging software for data acquisition and processing

Synthetic Facilities

Our laboratory space and equipment can be broadly classified under the two headings of Wet Synthesis and Solid State Synthesis. Click the relevant section below for more information.

Wet Synthetic Laboratory Facilities

The Functional Materials Group is well equipped for synthetic and analytical techniques ranging from soft organic polymers to nanoparticles to highly sensitive organometallic species.  In addition to conventional synthetic laboratories, we have glove-boxes for both air-sensitive sample storage and preparation, and Schlenk lines for the handling of highly reactive chemicals.  Bulk solvent purification is carried out by an Innovation Technologies Benchtop Solvent Purification System (for common and general use dry solvents) and carefully monitored inert atmosphere stills when unusual or ultra-dry solvents are required.  Furthermore, we make use of a CEM Microwave Reactor with Autosampler for high temperature microwave-assisted synthetic procedures.

CEM Microwave Reactor with Autosampler

Benchtop Solvent Purification System

Solid-state Synthetic Laboratory Facilities

Our solid state laboratories are equipped with eight ovens and ten furnaces, with the capacity to reach 1600 °C and including three-zone and tube furnaces suitable for chemical vapour transport studies in various atmospheres. We have a number of vacuum/sealing lines and a glove box facilitating the synthesis of air-sensitive materials, multiple ball mills and both a 15 ton uniaxial pellet press and a uniaxial hot press.

Three-arm glove box

Analytical Facilities

The broad range of research themes, including interdisciplinary research topics, undertaken within the department has resulted in our acquisition of an impressive and versatile suite of equipment to allow us to investigate and characterise a vast range of diverse substances, both internally and for third parties. We can test for simple composition and purity, but also study reactions as they happen and probe advanced materials properties.


UV/Vis and FTIR Spectroscopy

We have a number of UV/Vis spectrometers working in transmission mode, and Fourier Transform Infra-red (FTIR) spectrometers capable of both transmission and reflectance measurements.


NMR Spectroscopy is provided by a JEOL NMR 400 MHz with a three channel probe and automated sampling system. The machine routinely runs multinuclear and multidimensional spectra on research samples and supports a 200 degree range for variable temperature studies. NMR is used for everything from simple purity measurements to studying polymer end-groups and monitoring reactions in situ. Routinely used nuclei include  1H, 13C, 7Li, 11B, 19F, 27Al, 29Si, 31P and 119Sn, with the potential to study almost any spin-active element.


For open-shell systems, continuous wave X-band EPR is provided by an ADANI CMS 8400 Spectrometer with an available sweep range of 100 G to 7000 G, suitable for both solid and liquid sample experiments. Furthermore, the attached cryosystem permits investigations between -150 °C and 150 °C, whilst an optical window permits irradiation of the samples in situ.

Adani CMS 8400 Spectrometer

Raman Spectroscopy

Our Horiba LabRam spectrometer is equipped with four lasers: near-IR (784 nm), Red (633 nm), green (532 nm) and blue (468 nm) and possesses a full set of notch and edge filters allowing Stokes and Anti-stokes measurements, polarisers and xyz mapping capabilities.

Additionally it has temperature stages which allow acquisition of spectra of samples between 80 K and 1700 K. Furthermore, it is coupled to an FTIR system for (almost) concurrent FTIR and Raman data acquisition.


For ultraviolet, visible and near infra-red fluorescence spectroscopy, we have an Edinburgh Instruments FS5 Fluorescence Emission Spectrometer with a 300 nm to 1000 nm excitation range and a sub-nanometer working resolution.

Edinburgh Instruments FS5 Fluorescence Emission Spectrometer

Energy dispersive X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF)

Our Panalytical Epsilon 3 X-ray fluorescence spectrometer operates up to 20 keV excitation and can detect elements from Na upwards with an energy resolution of approx. 135 eV. Samples can be loaded as bulk solids, powders and liquids, and it is equipped with a 12 bay sample changer for high throughput. A standard measurement takes approximately 15 minutes, and the user friendly software means operation does not require specialist knowledge.

Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy (AAS)

Our Perkin-Elmer Analyst 800 atomic absorption spectrometer (AAS) equipped with two fully integrated atomisers: a burner system for flame atomisation and a graphite furnace for electrothermal atomisation. We have lamps for a wide range of elements.


Chromatographic Analysis and Purification

Gel Permeation Chromatography (GPC)

We make routine use of size-exclusion chromatography using Polymer Laboratories GPC, handling molecular weights 500 – 1,000,000+ Daltons. This is generally used for organic solvent soluble polymers, and is fitted with RI and dual channel UV detectors.

High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC)

The UltiMate® 3000 Quaternary Analytical system supports a wide range of solvent options and gradient profiles, making method development easy. It has a wide temperature range for thermostatting of samples and columns, and a Diode Array Detector for convenient method development and high detection sensitivity. It is also compatible with UHPLC applications up to 62 MPa (9000 psi).

Gas-Chromatography Mass-Spectroscopy (GC-MS)

We make use of an Agilent 6890 series GC with MS detector and head space sampling. Used by both Forensic and Chemistry groups within the school, applications include hydrocarbon processing, food safety, pesticide determination, chemical analysis of reaction mixtures, biodiesel, drug screening, toxicology, environmental and law enforcement.

Ion chromatography (IC)

There are two systems for cation and anion chromatography. Areas of application include the food and beverage industries, water quality testing, atmospheric monitoring and the pharmaceutical industry. IC is a well-established technique and is the preferred method for the detection of inorganic anions and small organic anions.

Advanced Materials Characterisation


Our magnetometry systems comprise a Quantum Design MPMS SQUID magnetometer and an Oxford Instruments Maglab, both operating at up to 7 T.  These are augmented by a double stage adiabatic demagnetization refrigerator, operating down to 15 mK.  Furthermore, the high pressure measuring facilities allow studies at up to 1 Mbar (Diamond anvil cells and ruby fluorescence system for pressure monitoring). We can measure heat capacities, DC susceptibilities and conductivities under a range of extreme conditions.

Quantum Design MPMS SQUID Magnetometer

Electrical and Electrochemical Analysis

We have a Biologic VMP3 Potentiostat for battery electrochemical measurements, coupled with suitable electrochemical cells for cyclic voltammetry on solution state samples. Furthermore, we have an Agilent HP4294A impedance analyser for electrical measurements over a frequency range of 100 Hz to 5 MHz between 10 Hz and 13 MHZ and a temperature range of approximately 10 and 800 K. We also have an AixACCT Easycheck 300 ferroelectric tester for performing polarisation-electric field measurements at room temperature.

Characterisation of Porous and Nanostructured Materials

Particle characteristics

Helium pycnometry is a standard method for measuring densities of newly synthesized solids including in powder form.  Our Quantachrome helium pycnometer has a range of cell volumes, including micro, and is capable of providing density values with an accuracy of ±0.002 grams. This is complemented by our Thermoscientific Surfer for measurement of surface areas and pore size for nanostructured and porous materials by N2 physisorption.

Calorimetric Analysis

We have a Netzsch Differential Scanning Calorimeter 200 PC. This N2(l) cooled system has an operating range of between  -150 °C and 600 °C. This is coupled with our Netzsch STA 409 PC25 for Themogravimetric analysis with a 1500°C operating range and capable of simultaneous DSC measurements. This suite allows the study of a wide range of phenomena such as phase changes, glass transitions, melting, purity, evaporation, sublimation, crystallization, pyrolysis, heat capacity, polymerization, etc.

Optical Analysis

In addition to a digital Polarimeter we make use of automated microscopy (complete with cross-polarising and heated-stage facilities), and a Malvern Instruments Particle Sizer for Dynamic Light Scattering Measurements.

Characterisation Under Extreme Conditions:

Extending the capability of the other equipment listed, we have the facilities to conduct experiments at both extremely low temperatures and high pressures, greatly expanding the range of phenomena which may be examined.

diamond anvil cell

BeCu diamond anvil cell for resistivity and ac-susceptibility measurements for use at low temperature and in high magnetic fields.

degmagnetisation refrigerator

Double stage adiabatic demagnetisation refrigerator for low noise low temperature measurements down to 15mK.

Diffraction and Imaging


We have now purchased a Rigaku Oxford Diffraction SuperNova A S2 single crystal diffractometer with both Cu and Mo X-Ray sources, fitted with an ATLAS detector, and with variable temperature capabilities between 80K and 500K. We currently look forward to its delivery and installation in January 2016.

We have a range of powder X-ray Diffractometers for various applications:

  • PANalytical Empyrean with incident beam primary monochromator for Kα1 radiation and X'Celerator linear detector for extremely rapid accumulation. It has multiple stages, including a flat plate stage coupled to an Oxford Cryosystems Phenix unit for low temperature work down to 12 K. Furthermore, it is fitted with a capillary spinner useful for air sensitive materials.
  • Bruker D8 with sample changer for ambient temperature structural characterisation.
  • Rigaku Miniflex 600 desktop XRD with sample changer for routine phase identification work and teaching activities. This too features a linear detector and a chamber for air sensitive materials.

PANalytical Empyrean with incident beam primary monochromator


The department has two Scanning Electron Microscopes (SEM):

  • Our Hitachi S3400N SEM has a working resolution of ~100 nm (depending on sample type). Additionally, it is fitted with an Oxford Instruments ("X-max 80") EDX detector, and therefore we can investigate the elemental distribution within a sample. This SEM also has a variable-pressure (VP mode) which means that BSE images can be acquired of non-conducting samples negating the need for Au/C coating.
  • Our Hitachi S4700 SEM is a cold field emission instrument with an ultimate resolution of ~10nm (again, sample dependent) and incorporates two secondary electron detectors, and a back-scatter detector. A state-of-the-art Bruker Quad Xflash EDX detector has just been ordered and is due for install in Feb. 2016.

Computational Research

Computational research is powered by our in-house High Performance Computing Facility. Tor, as it is called, is a 304 core, 2 Teraflop infiniband system with 12 terabytes of associated storage. The compute nodes are comprised of four Dual, Hex core 2.67 GHz, 24GB Nodes and thirty two Dual, Quad core 2.40 GHz, 64GB Nodes. Tor currently runs a range of commercial and custom software suites, and is used by both the FMG and computational astrophysicists in CAPS.

Industry engagement talks

This short series of talks represent an opportunity for companies/organisations to explain their core business to academics and students in a presentation lasting I hour. Speakers are encouraged to identify potential areas of collaborative work and to outline career paths for science graduates. All science and faculty members and students are welcome to attend. These talks complement the School’s extensive Research Seminars and Colloquia programme.

Colin Hayhurst, Innovations and Partnership Fellow, University of Sussex
30th March 2016, 2pm – 3pm, Ingram Lecture Theatre

Colin will be describing his role with SEPNet as Innovations and Partnerships Fellow and the services provided to SEPNet partner institutions. He will also talk about his own research on finite element analysis which he subsequently commercialised. The resulting product is called Autodyn and is widely used in industry and academia (including within the School of Physical Sciences).

Principles of Technology Commercialisation

Richard Oldroyd, Associate - UK & European Patent Attorney, Elkington and Fife LLP
25th February 2015, 2pm – 3pm, Ingram Lecture Theatre
Taking new technology from concept to market is a complex, risky and challenging process. A key part of early stage development (for example arising from academic research), where revenue generation is likely to be several years away, is the capture of intellectual property before its release into the public domain. This can substantially improve the potential value, and hence attractiveness to investors, although can conflict with an academic's responsibility to communicate the results of their work to society at large. The presentation aims to provide some principles behind technology value and investor confidence, and how potential conflicts between freedom to publish and maintaining commercial value can be mitigated.

Medical Physics: Applications of Physics in Healthcare

Mark Knight, Consultant Medical Physicists, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust
21st January 2015, 2pm – 3pm, Ingram Lecture Theatre
This presentation will review the exciting opportunities for the Physicist to be involved with diagnosis and treatment of patients in healthcare. Medical Physicists and Technicians are closely involved in areas such as cancer treatment, medical imaging and scientific computing. Current research interests in radiation shielding for novel radiotherapy technologies will be discussed and the talk will also cover career paths in Medical Physics.

Astrium (Airbus) Career Paths Presentation

Izabela Zajac, Astrium (Airbus) 5th November 2014, 3pm – 4pm, Ingram Lecture Theatre.
[Hosted in conjunction with Employability Week]
Airbus Defence and Space is Europe's leading space company. We employ over 3000 people in the UK's Space Systems sector, 18,000 worldwide and have over 40 years of experience in the design and manufacture of satellites, launchers and scientific space missions. This talk aims to give an insight into the working world of the space industry at Airbus Defence and Space and what career paths are available for graduates.

LISA Pathfinder Gravitational Waves Space Mission

Izabela Zajac, Astrium (Airbus) 5th November 2014, 2pm – 3pm, Ingram Lecture Theatre.
[Hosted in conjunction with Employability Week]
Virtually our entire knowledge of the Universe is based upon the observation of electromagnetic waves, such as visible light, infrared, ultraviolet, radio, X-rays and gamma rays. The LISA Pathfinder spacecraft, which is currently under construction at the Airbus Defence and Space site in the UK, will pave the way to a completely different method of observing the Universe: detecting gravitational waves. Within this colloquium a general overview of the LISA Pathfinder mission will be presented, including details on the scientific motivation, mission objectives, engineering challenges and current project status.

School of Physical Sciences, Ingram Building, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NH

Enquiries: contact us

Last Updated: 09/05/2017