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


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!”.

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.

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