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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/C006305/1
Title: High Temperature X-ray diffraction studies of oxides, oxynitrides and minerals
Principal Investigator: Thompson, Professor D
Other Investigators:
Manning, Professor DAC
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Chemical Engineering & Advanced Material
Organisation: Newcastle University
Scheme: Standard Research (Pre-FEC)
Starts: 01 March 2005 Ends: 31 July 2007 Value (£): 205,537
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Materials Characterisation Mining & Minerals Extraction
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Manufacturing Aerospace, Defence and Marine
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
A state-of-the-art Philips X'pert PRO X-ray diffraction system was recently installed at Newcastle. The system is used extensively by researchers in the Schools of Chemical Engineering & Advanced Materials and Civil Engineering and Geosciences, many with interests in high temperature phase characterisation. The present proposal requests funding for a high-T (2000C) attachment for the current system to extend its versatility and to provide a springboard for new research opportunities. The senior research associate named to work on the contract has been involved with the instrument since installation and has developed a high level of expertise in operation. She will carry out the research programme of the PI and also be responsible for assisting other researchers in the use of the high-T attachment. The PI's activity focuses on oxynitrides ceramics, with the aim of producing strong materials capable of good high-T performance. Many problems encountered during high-T use of silicon nitride/sialon ceramics are now well understood (e.g. oxidation behaviour), but others are not. Ten years ago it was discovered that alpha sialon ceramics can under certain conditions and in certain systems transform into beta sialon; research programmes worldwide have focused on understanding this phenomenon, but none have specifically explored phase changes in-situ. The present programme will do this; not only will the results confirm (or otherwise) current theories about the transformation, but they may also shed light on the still incompletely understood question of alpha-beta transformation in silicon nitride itself. The Achilles heel of many commercial nitrogen ceramics is the grain-boundary phase (GBP) and the new system will be used to collect information on phase transformations and thermal expansion behaviour (for crystalline GBPs) and devitrification behaviour (for glassy GBPs)which is vital for understanding limitations in high-T performance. Defined as naturally-occurring chemical compounds, minerals play a key role in biological systems and as industrial raw materials. X-ray powder diffrcation is the most basic and essential tool used to identify minerals; it gives information concerning their structure and composition. This proposal is for a heating stage that will permit sophisticated experiments to be carried out to better characterise minerals from weathered rocks (in which atmospheric carbon dioxide has been fixed) and so understand how they formed from soils (in which minerals form intimate intergrowths with organic matter on a sub-micron scale) and so understand how soils fix carbon, and from wetlands created artificially to fix metals from contaminated waters. The heating stage will also provide information essential to understand the behaviour of natural and synthetic zeolites, which are some of the most important minerals encountered in everyday consumer products as well as being used as catalysts in the chemical industry. The heating stage will enable us to determine the temperatures to which the catalytic structures are stable, with direct relevance to industry. These experiments will link in with similar experiments using a novel thermal analytical system which is unique worldwide in its ability to analyse gases evolved during heating of a sample, simultaneously determining their composition and stable isotope ratios. TiO2 has a range of applications as a white pigment, a catalyst, an electrode and a photodiode material. It is prepared at high temp-eratures, and as such the grain size is critical; moreover it is desirable to minimise the amount of anatase, relative to the more stable rutile phase. These parameters will be measured directly using the high-T XRD attachment for the projects outlined in J(3) above. During this study, it is expected that other Newcastle researchers will discover the usefulness of the new facility, and will apply to use it in their own research programmes.
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Organisation Website: http://www.ncl.ac.uk