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.
- Undergraduate facilities
- Optics facilities
- Synthetic facilities
- Analytical facilities
- Beacon observatory
The School of Physical Sciences has recently invested almost £2 million on a wide range of modern facilities. Below is a snapshot of some of our equipment, but for more information see the corresponding tabs above.
NMR Spectroscopy is provided by our brand new NMR facility. This facility includes two 400 MHz machines, one of which is a Bruker Neo, the most up to date instrument on the market which has only currently been installed in three UK universities. These NMR systems are not only capable of running a wide variety of solution state studies but are also capable of conducting HR-MAS experiments.
We have 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.
The Beacon Observatory includes a 17" astrograph from Plane Wave Instruments with a 4k x 4k CCD and a BVRIH-alpha filter set, as well as a 90-frames-per-second camera.
Our new crime scene house gives Forensic Science students the opportunity to find out what is involved in working at a crime scene and put their academic studies into practice.
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.
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.
Dr. Stuart Gibson,
Director of Innovation and Enterprise,
Tel: 01227 82 3271
Dr Stuart Gibson; Director of Innovation and Enterprise
Having access to high-quality equipment is crucial, and the School has recently invested almost £2 million on a wide range of modern facilities including wet and dry labs, an observatory and our new crime scene house. Our students use industry-standard equipment and work in state-of-the-art surroundings from the very beginning of their studies.
- Crime scene house: Our latest investment provides our Forensic Science students with the opportunity to find out what is involved in working at the crime scene. West Oast House is a bespoke on-campus training facility where students put their academic studies into practice and develop transferable skills. Within the house, the rooms provide crime scene simulations for scenarios such as burglary, domestic assault and suspicious death. Outside, the extensive gardens provide a different environment for students to undertake the mapping and triangulation of evidence, and consideration of buried remains.
- State-of-the-art laboratories: Our newly refurbished labs are well equipped for synthetic and analytical techniques ranging from soft organic polymers to nanoparticles to highly sensitive organometallic species. We have also a brand-new NMR facility, which includes two 400 MHz machines. One of these is a Bruker Neo, the most up-to-date instrument on the market, which currently is installed in just three universities in the UK. See the “Synthetic facilities” tab for more information on these.
- 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
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
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 brand new NMR facility. This facility includes two 400 MHz machines, one of which is a Bruker Neo, the most up to date instrument on the market which has only currently been installed in three UK universities. These NMR systems are not only capable of running a wide variety of solution state studies but are also capable of conducting HR-MAS experiments. These systems also have the hardware necessary to upgrade them the full solids instruments should the need arise.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
BeCu diamond anvil cell for resistivity and ac-susceptibility measurements for use at low temperature and in high magnetic fields.
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 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.
- 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 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.
The Beacon Observatory provides a fully automised system with both optical telescope and radio telescope capability. It includes a 17" astrograph from Plane Wave Instruments with a 4k x 4k CCD and a BVRIH-alpha filter set, as well as a 90-frames-per-second camera. The new facility is motorised and connected to the internet, meaning that observations can be carried out remotely.
The observatory is extremely valuable for our students and staff, and we are pleased to welcome the local schools, interested local amateur astronomy groups and members of the public who also make use of this facility.