A facility that allows scientists to use x-rays to examine materials for purposes as diverse as reducing corrosion on metal artefacts to re-growing teeth from stem cells is set for a multi-million pound upgrade.
The Universities of Liverpool and Warwick have been awarded a further £7.2million to upgrade and operate the XMaS (X-ray Materials Science) beamline, which is a National Research Facility.
The facility has received new funding from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to further studies into the atomic and microscopic structures of materials and their properties under different conditions at length scales of ten thousand times smaller than the thickness of a human hair.
XMaS is owned by the Universities of Liverpool and Warwick and is located in Grenoble, France, at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF).
It works with over 90 active research groups, representing several hundred researchers, in diverse fields ranging across materials science, physics, chemistry, engineering and biomaterials and contributes to societal challenges including energy storage and recovery, tackling climate change, the digital economy and advances in healthcare.
Originally constructed in the mid-1990’s the facility will, for the first time, undergo a major upgrade over the next 18 months, whilst the ESRF is also undergoing a machine refurbishment that will make it the world’s first high energy fourth generation synchrotron light source.
The new X-ray source and upgraded XMaS facility will allow an even more diverse research programme covering a wide range of structural and spectroscopic characterisation methods with advanced sample environments allowing materials to be studied under realistic operational conditions.
Professor Christopher Lucas, Professor of Physics at Liverpool and co-Director of XMaS, said: “Materials science, in its generality, requires a strong cross-disciplinary research approach. XMaS will provide a core set of advanced X-ray metrologies from scattering to spectroscopy which, when coupled to a state-of-the-art synchrotron radiation source, will allow users to characterize and explore structure-function relationships in a wide range of materials systems.
“The balance of science on XMaS will encompass both long-term discovery-led research and shorter term impact-focused research thereby providing an environment for transformative, challenge-led material science research.”
Projects that XMaS is involved with include helping scientists re-grow teeth from stem cells or artificial implants, improving understanding of magneto-electric materials that underpin more efficient data storage and reducing corrosion on metal heritage artefacts. It has also resulted in furthering material characterisation techniques and in the development of new technologies that have had a significant impact on the scientific community.
Dr Thomas Hase, co-Director of XMaS from the University of Warwick Department of Physics, said: “This continued funding is a real vote of confidence in the quality and breadth of science we do at XMaS. The ability to delve into new material systems and take multiple measurements simultaneously underpins new material discovery and drives modern technologies forward. The funding and refurbishment of the facility acknowledges the fast changing scientific landscape with its ongoing new opportunities and challenges.”