Welcome to the Nanoscale Physics Research Laboratory

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The Nanoscale Physics Research Laboratory was established in 1994 - the first centre for nanoscience in the UK - and formally opened in the Physics East building in May 1996 by Professor Sir John Cadogan FRS. The second phase of the Lab, the Nanoscale Science Facility, was opened in May 2004 by Professor Sir Michael Pepper FRS.

The NPRL now encompasses a flourishing range of both fundamental and applied research programs. An interdisciplinary and international approach is central to the ethos of the Lab. Collaborations with other departments (Chemistry, Environmental Research, etc) are enhanced by their proximity on campus, while the Lab sustains international research collaborations with a whole series of partners in Europe and worldwide.

The NPRL is also committed to the transfer of new concepts and technological innovations from the research lab into industry, including our spin-out companies, creating new opportunities for sustainable economic development.

Recent News


How about a jewel-encrusted nano-snowman for Christmas?
22 December 2015

Would a jewel-encrusted snowman make the perfect Christmas present? At only 5 nanometres in size, the price might be lower than you think. And it’s functional too, catalysing the splitting of water to make green hydrogen for fuel cells. The research was performed at the Nanoscale Physics Research Lab by Caroline Blackmore and Ross Griffin. This story appears on nanowerk.

Year Ends with Five New Grants
11 December 2015

It’s not exactly cheap to run a Lab like the NPRL so success in winning grants or contracts is always something to be celebrated! This year good news came in 5 forms. Innanopart is a European project on nanoparticle metrology led by Alex Shard at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and NPRL is delighted to be a member; our joint NPRL-NPL PhD student Saeed is in the centre of the picture. PharmIDaBall (what a name!) is a UK project on nanoparticles for pharmaceuticals, again led by NPL (Caterina Minelli, Andy Wain). In this case the joint PhD student is Patrick (left). The Lab’s excellent collaboration with Johnson Matthey (Peter Bishop, Peter Ellis) continues with a new joint PhD student on the EPSRC CASE scheme (Ross, right). At the same time JM’s access contract to our aberration-corrected ac-STEM (Dogan Ozkaya) has been extended into 2016 (when JM will open their own ac-STEM facility – that’s knowledge transfer in action!). Finally, contract negotiations with Brussels on the big new Crit-Cat project are in progress – but more on that later. These new contracts add to Richard’s EPSRC Fellowship, the EU Marie Curie CATSENSE training Network led by Leuven (Peter Lievens), NanoMILE (the EU nano-environment project led by Eva Valsami-Jones in GEES) and our Leverhulme grant as the resource basis for Richard’s group going into 2016. And of course they all provide for continuing collaboration with excellent partners. Now all we have to do is deliver the science and the technology…

A Kaleidoscope of Clusters
21 October 2015

It seems that no self-respecting PhD student in the NPRL can be content without a journal cover these days! Latest to feature, on the cover of PCCP, is Caroline Blackmore’s kaleidoscope of aberration-corrected STEM images of size-selected Pt-Ti nanoclusters. Unexpectedly the platinum atoms form the core of the nanoparticle – sometimes several cores in fact, especially as the cluster size increases. Probably the cause is oxidation of the titanium after removal from the cluster source, which draws titanium to the surface and promotes condensation of the platinum atoms – but that’s another story (and another NPRL news item…?). Congratulations to Caroline on the paper. Only one problem, the journal replaced her green image background with a delicate shade of black; never mind, you can't win them all!

Papers in Nature Journals are like Buses…
21 September 2015

You wait for ages and then two come along at once - in fact, not just in the same month but on the same day! The paper, in Nature Materials, represents the first fruits of Wolfgang Theis’s collaboration with the National Center for Electron Microscopy at Berkeley, which Wolfgang has been visiting for several years now. The work, led by John Miao at UCLA, demonstrates the resolution in 3D and with atomic resolution of the structure of more than three thousands atoms at the end of a tungsten needle (free not embedded), via electron tomography with the aberration-corrected STEM in annular dark-field mode. Wolfgang said “I am delighted that the first paper from this exciting collaboration has now been published”. A link to the UCLA Press Release is here.

Birmingham-Bath Collaboration Breeds Nature Communication
21 September 2015

The Birmingham-Bath Atomic Manipulation program, led by Richard and former PhD student Peter Sloan, now Faculty at Bath Physics, generated its first major “hit” with a paper in Nature Communications reporting the real-space imaging of hot electron dynamics at the Si(111)-7x7 surface via non-local atomic manipulation in the STM. The paper combined experiments from both labs, notably Tianluo Pan’s variable temperature STM work at Birmingham. Richard commented: "The Birmingham-Bath program is providing us with new eyes to visualise very fast electronic processes and so is relevant not just to electronics and computing but also improving the performance of solar cells designed to capture renewable energy." A link to the article is here; the news story made the front page of the Bath website.

Birmingham Science City Research Alliance Celebrates Successful Completion of Quarter Billion Pound Project
9 September 2015

Nearly a decade after its original conception, the Birmingham-Warwick Alliance celebrated the delivery of every one of its contracted outputs with a party at the Warwick Vice-Chancellor’s house. AWM, the ERDF and HEFCE invested over £60 million into the SCRA project to strengthen inter-University and industry interactions in the Midlands and the project levered a further £200 million from additional funders including companies. The NPRL benefited from 8 new instruments. More than 450 new jobs and 22 spin-out companies were created in the region, over 700 business assists delivered and more than 1,200 papers published. Richard led one of the six projects (Advanced Materials 1) with Chris McConville (beside him in the photo, in discussion with Warwick VC Nigel Thrift and Jon Preece, Birmingham Chemistry). You can only say “wow!”.

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