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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/V028774/1
Title: Midlands Mag-Lab: A versatile magnetometry facility for advanced materials characterisation
Principal Investigator: Clark, Dr L
Other Investigators:
Hicks, Dr CW Chung, Dr M
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Quantum Design UK and Ireland Ltd Quantum Technology Hub
Department: School of Chemistry
Organisation: University of Birmingham
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 May 2021 Ends: 30 April 2023 Value (£): 767,527
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Energy Efficiency Magnetism/Magnetic Phenomena
Materials Characterisation
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
24 Nov 2020 EPSRC Strategic Equipment Interview Panel November 2020- Panel 2 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Magnetism is one of the most long-appreciated physical properties of matter. An early example of the exploitation of magnetic materials is the ancient lodestone compass, made from a magnetic mineral of iron oxide and used as a navigational device some 2000 years ago. However, it was not until the advent of quantum mechanics at the beginning of the 20th century that we developed an understanding of the atomic origin of magnetism in materials. We now know that magnetism is a phenomenon that arises from the behaviour of the electrons that make up matter. What makes magnetic materials so remarkable is that their chemical structure and bonding can allow their electrons to strongly interact in a variety of ways, giving rise to a rich diversity of magnetic properties that we can tune and harness for our benefit.

Indeed, today we make use of magnetic materials in a range of technological devices that have revolutionised modern life. The basis of the read-head in a computer hard drive, for example, is two layers of magnetic materials, where the relative orientation of the magnetism within each layer controls the flow of current to read digital information. In other magnetic materials known as rare-earth magnets, the magnetic effect is so strong that it can be used to levitate trains and forms the basis of powerful, compact motors that are used to propel cars and to generate electricity from wind turbines.

At the forefront of the interdisciplinary research field of advanced materials is the need to discover and understand the properties of novel magnetic materials to drive breakthroughs in the development of new technologies for the 21st century. This will involve discovering alternative sources of magnetic materials to overcome our over-reliance on their critical global supply chains and hazardous mining practices, exploiting the phenomenon of magnetic refrigeration to develop environmentally-friendly cooling technology, and uncovering never-before-seen magnetic properties in materials that may underpin the next generation of paradigm-shifting quantum technologies.

To achieve these ambitious goals, access to - and development of - state-of-the-art equipment for the magnetic characterisation of materials are essential. With the Midlands Mag-Lab, we will establish a unique user facility at the University of Birmingham based on a cutting-edge Superconducting Quantum Interference Device (SQUID) magnetometer - the premier tool for the magnetic characterisation of materials. A versatile suite of measurement options will provide access to a broad range of temperatures, magnetic fields and pressures at which to probe the properties of a diverse range of advanced materials. This includes reaching temperatures ten times colder than outer space, magnetic fields one hundred thousand times stronger than the earth's magnetic field and applied pressures ten thousand times greater than atmospheric pressure.

The equipment will be essential to enabling a wide-ranging portfolio of advanced materials research, with over 40 academic groups from across the Midlands region requiring the capacity and capability afforded by Mag-Lab, as well as international and industrial organisations demonstrating the wider requirement for the facility. With core establishing principles of fair and transparent equipment access and a significant proportion of early-career researchers within the initial user group, Mag-Lab will play a key role in ensuring the future success and strength of UK advanced materials research.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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Project URL:  
Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.bham.ac.uk