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


An Unfamiliar Facet of Birmingham Discovered
Monday 15 June 2015

Birmingham played host to a select group of leading European nano-scientists this week, who travelled from Tampere, Helsinki, Iceland, Leuven, Juelich, Genoa, Johnson Matthey and the National Physical Laboratory for the first European Workshop on Fundamental Aspects of Clusters for Emerging Technology (FACET). Considerable progress was reported in both experimental and theoretical studies of the atomic structure of size-selected clusters as well as emerging applications in catalysis, metrology and biomedicine. Many fruitful discussions took place and delegates were delighted to discover just how green Birmingham is: the photo was taken beside the lake which is hidden behind the Conference Park and entered via the Winterbourne Botanical Garden (a heron was in attendance). Did you know that Birmingham is included in the Rough Guide’s Top 10 Cities in the World to visit?

Richard Appointed Professor in Nanjing University
Tuesday 28 April 2015

Today marked a major strengthening of the relationship between the University of Birmingham and Nanjing University with the Inauguration of Richard as Professor in the College of Physics at Nanjing, a post which will run concurrently with his Chair in Birmingham. The photo shows Richard with Prof Zhemin Tan the vice president of Nanjing University at the Ceremony. In his acceptance speech Richard highlighted the remarkable way in which Prof Guanghou Wang and colleagues have created the cluster physics research community across China, and the honour he felt in being appointed to Nanjing’s physics department, consistently ranked amongst the best in China. In addition to the cluster physics link, Richard’s trip identified common interests between Birmingham and Nanjing in aberration-corrected electron microscopy as well as scanning tunnelling microscopy of functional materials, so the potential for fruitful interactions is substantial.

Hollywood Clusters
Tuesday 21 April 2015

The Cover of today’s issue of Nanoscale features a new cast of Hollywood stars – Au561, Au742 and Au923 clusters – with cinematography courtesy of the aberration-corrected STEM. The plot of the movie is adapted from George Orwell’s 1984: all nanostructures are metastable but some are more metastable than others. Directed by Dawn Wells and produced by Richard, the screenplay reveals that size-selected Au561 and Au742 clusters are locked onto the smaller seed structures which are formed as the clusters grow from the liquid state (“template growth”). A hierarchy of competing, metastable isomers is disclosed. Invaluable CGI support came from the Genoa studio of Riccardo Ferrando and Giulia Rossi by way of molecular dynamics animations. Dawn has been nominated for a best director Oscar.

Three in a row as NPRL’s 21st birthday celebrations begin
Thursday 29 January 2015

2015 is the 21st birthday of the NPRL and the year has begun with considerable cause for celebration with three of our staff members. First, Feng Yin, Research Fellow and Facility Manager in the Lab for an amazing 13 years, has been appointed Professor in the School of Physics and Information Technology of Shaanxi Normal University in Xi'an, China. Secondly, Arumuagam Murugadoss, who joined us as Research Fellow just last year, has been appointed Assistant Professor in the National Centre for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology at Madras University, India. And last - but certainly not least - Ziyou Li has been appointed to a distinguished visiting position as Qiushi Chair Professor in Zhejiang University, China. To all our colleagues we offer the most hearty congratulations. A great start to the year!
Nanoscale physics in Tokyo

Nanoscale physics (and chemistry) in Tokyo
Friday 7 November 2014

Richard enjoyed seminar visits to Tokyo and Keio Universities last week, prior to the ISSS-7 surface science conference in Matsue. The photos are from the visit to the group of Tatsuya Tsukuda, Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Tokyo and one of the pioneers of the field of protected metal clusters. Richard also visited the lab of Atsushi Nakajima, Professor of Chemistry at Keio University in Yokohama, where he saw the diverse and highly ambitious cluster research program underway there, including new ultrafast measurements. This was Richard’s tenth visit to Japan, and he found the hospitality as warm as always. The string quartet playing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Ueno on a wet Saturday afternoon even provided a rendition of Danny Boy…
Live Action

Electron + Heat = (Live) Action!
Tuesday 28 October 2014

Atomic manipulation is one of the frontiers of nanotechnology, but has often been confined to cryogenic temperatures. Several studies by the Birmingham group have now shown that the rates of atomic manipulation can be hugely enhanced at elevated temperatures; the most recent paper, by Tian Luo Pan et al in JPC Letters, shows a three order of magnitude increase in the cross-section for desorption of chlorobenzene molecules, induced by non-local electron injection from the STM tip on the Si(111)-7x7 surface, when the temperature is raised from the cryogenic regime to room temperature and above. The phenomenon is associated with a “concerted” electronic-plus-thermal mechanism. This paper was also our first foray into ACS’s LiveSlides forum; you can hear the Shakespearian tones of Tian describing the research here. Bravo!

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