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


From Plasmons to Plankton - First Issue of Advances in Physics: X
20 April 2016

The first full issue of the new journal Advances in Physics: X is now online! Conceived by Richard, who is the founding Editor-in-Chief, APX aims to demonstrate the intellectual connections between different branches of physics and across (hence the “X”) the boundaries of physics with other disciplines, thus illustrating the underpinning importance of physics to a wide spectrum of modern science and technology. APX is published by Taylor and Francis and belongs to a family of journals which includes the Philosophical Magazine (1798-) and Advances in Physics (1952-). APX is a fully open access (and purely electronic) journal, which publishes concise review articles invited by its 22 Editors. Four issues are planned for 2016, rising to six in 2017. Here is the link to Richard’s opening editorial “From Plasmons to Plankton – the Wonderful World of Physics”.


The Year of the MACS
4 April 2016

Five years after the original idea expressed in our first patent application, 2016 sees the publication of the first papers on the Matrix Assembly Cluster Source (MACS), designed to scale-up by orders of magnitude the available flux of clusters, and thus enable applications in catalysis, theranostics, photonics, etc. The first paper, in the Review of Scientific Instruments, reports the concept of the MACS and proof of principle experiments at a flux equivalent to a few nanoAmps (as a reference the magnetron cluster source typically generates about 0.1 nanoAmps). The second paper, in the Faraday Discussions of the RSC, reports a further scale-up of flux to around 100 nanoAmps, and considers the prospects for going further. This paper, presented by Richard at the Faraday Discussion Meeting on Catalysis in London today, attracted considerable interest from catalysis experts. Between the conception of the MACS and these first formal reports has been a terrific team effort to develop and demonstrate the new technology in a rigorous fashion. A series of further papers are in preparation. LATE NEWS A happy addendum to this story – Ross has been awarded the best poster prize at the Faraday Discussion.

Nanoman reaches out to Bavarian schools
3 February 2016

NPRL is delighted to be assisting the Bavarian Nanotechnology Cluster in Germany to promote their outreach program to schools in the state. The “Cluster Nanotechnology” was founded in 2006 in order to better exploit the enormous potential of nanotechnology and is supported by the Bavarian state government. The Cluster promotes cooperation between the research and economic sectors in nanotechnology, and also introduces students and teachers to the field. The Cluster organizes a school competition for nanotechnology projects every year and to advertise the competition they create a poster with an interesting picture from the nano area. This year they have chosen our Nanoman to follow last year’s poster offering, which was Don Eigler’s nano corral. Asked by NPRL News for a comment, Nanoman responded in characteristically laconic fashion “It’s good to know that we old timers from the pioneer days haven’t been forgotten by the young generation”. After all, he is nearly 20…


How about a jewel-encrusted nano-snowman for Christmas?
22 December 2015

Would a jewel-encrusted snowman make the perfect Christmas present? At only 5 nanometres in size, the price might be lower than you think. And it’s functional too, catalysing the splitting of water to make green hydrogen for fuel cells. The research was performed at the Nanoscale Physics Research Lab by Caroline Blackmore and Ross Griffin. This story appears on nanowerk.

Year Ends with Five New Grants
11 December 2015

It’s not exactly cheap to run a Lab like the NPRL so success in winning grants or contracts is always something to be celebrated! This year good news came in 5 forms. Innanopart is a European project on nanoparticle metrology led by Alex Shard at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and NPRL is delighted to be a member; our joint NPRL-NPL PhD student Saeed is in the centre of the picture. PharmIDaBall (what a name!) is a UK project on nanoparticles for pharmaceuticals, again led by NPL (Caterina Minelli, Andy Wain). In this case the joint PhD student is Patrick (left). The Lab’s excellent collaboration with Johnson Matthey (Peter Bishop, Peter Ellis) continues with a new joint PhD student on the EPSRC CASE scheme (Ross, right). At the same time JM’s access contract to our aberration-corrected ac-STEM (Dogan Ozkaya) has been extended into 2016 (when JM will open their own ac-STEM facility – that’s knowledge transfer in action!). Finally, contract negotiations with Brussels on the big new Crit-Cat project are in progress – but more on that later. These new contracts add to Richard’s EPSRC Fellowship, the EU Marie Curie CATSENSE training Network led by Leuven (Peter Lievens), NanoMILE (the EU nano-environment project led by Eva Valsami-Jones in GEES) and our Leverhulme grant as the resource basis for Richard’s group going into 2016. And of course they all provide for continuing collaboration with excellent partners. Now all we have to do is deliver the science and the technology…

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!

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