Materials development

Compound interest: sometimes the only way to explore new physics is to create new materials. Our world-class facilities and expertise are making this possible.

Left: the thin film apparatus recently installed at the Research Centre at Harwell, which can create, amongst other things, new topological insulators, a very special class of materials that insulate in the bulk and conduct on the surface. Right: simplified band diagram of a topological insulator.

Our materials development research groups are consistently cultivating fresh compounds and new sample configurations to better understand the science behind many different physical phenomena. By altering the composition of materials the crystal growth unit adjusts the electronic correlations that are responsible for magnetism and superconductivity, while the thin film research group controls the lattice parameters of interesting systems, tuning their properties without the need for doping.

Left: a single crystal of the spin ice material holmium titanate. This sample is grown in the Clarendon Laboratory using the floating zone method. Crystal structures and thermodynamic properties are also characterised in house. Right: schematic of the magnetic monopole excitations observed in this compound using polarized neutron scattering. See Fennell et al. Science 326, 415 (2009).

Groups working in this field