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

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!

Someone’s got to do it!
Friday 24 October 2014

A remarkable summer of conferences, which began with CSI in Italy and proceeded through Montreal and the west coast of Japan, finished with the DIET meeting in Asilomar on the Monterey peninsular in California last week. The conference site was set amongst the sand dunes leading to the long, white beach, the wild spirit of which is evocatively captured by Brenda Bury-Polanyi’s original painting [many thanks!]. Well, as the saying goes, someone’s got to do it. Oh, and there was a great scientific program too…

NPRL Reunion in New York
Friday 20 June 2014
(from our roving correspondents)

Former NPRL PhD students Mi Yeon Song and Emma Graham (nee Catton) had a surprise reunion in Washington D.C. yesterday. Mi Yeon is currently based in Seoul where she works at Hyundai Motor Group as a Senior Research Engineer developing green energy for automobiles. She was out in Washington D.C. attending a Nano Tech/Expo conference for a week. Emma now works as a UK and European patent attorney for Mewburn Ellis LLP in London. She was also in Washington D.C., for just a week, as part of a three month secondment to a US law firm. A Facebook post of the White House led to the former NPRL ladies discovering that they were in the same place at the same time, so they managed to arrange a quick catch up lunch to reminisce about the good old days in the Lab! They had a capital time (ha ha), despite the traffic...
CSI Varese

CSI Varese
Monday 9 June 2014

The 3rd Cluster-Surface Interactions (CSI) conference convened in Varese, north of Milan, last week. Richard, Chair of the steering committee, is pictured with Paolo Milani (conference Chair and pioneer of the use of cluster-generated materials in neuro-surgery) and Ib Chorkendorff (who has adopted the Birmingham cluster source to discover new alloy catalysts for energy storage) outside the Michelin star restaurant where the conference dinner was held (the trials of science!). The conference painted an optimistic picture of technical progress in cluster deposition and important developments in materials discovery. Three NPRL grad students gave posters. In 2016 CSI heads to the USA (but possibly not New York…).


Controlling The Atomic Structure of Size-Selected Gold Nanoparticles
Wednesday 28 May 2014

Controlling the size of nanoparticles is not enough. Even size-selected clusters come in different flavours – they show different atomic arrangements. Now Simon Plant and Lu Cao have demonstrated a new level of mastery over the proportions of the different atomic structures of Au923 clusters. By careful control of the cluster source parameters they were able to eliminate the icosahedra. The work is published in JACS and highlighted in Spotlight. Of course it also prompts the next challenge - to prepare pure samples of single isomers, which would allow catalytic behavior to be studied for a set cluster size as a function of the atomic arrangement…onwards and upwards!

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