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School of Physics and Astronomy

Disordered and Nanoscale Materials


Disordered materials

We investigate the local structure and dynamics of glasses and liquids, including the transitions between these two phases. For more information contact Dr Trachenko or Prof. Dove.

To model materials for radioactive waste storage, we run simulations of radiation damage that can involve billions of atoms. For more information contact Dr Trachenko.

We investigate the effects of defects on the mechanical properties of materials. For more information contact Prof. Dunstan.

Nanoscale materials

Nanoscale carbon materials include molecules such as the archetypal fullerene C60 and carbon nanotubes. The centre has extensive expertise in synthesis and purification of carbon nanomaterials, and group members were the first leaders in this field. Present work on carbon includes

  • Quantum electronic effects in carbon nanotube systems. The ESR of the nitrogen-containing endohedral fullerene iNC60 has hyperfine lines at least two orders of magnitude narrower then any other known radical, making it a possible qubit candidate for quantum computation. We are systematically investigating the potential of nitrogen and phosphorous-containing incar-fullerenes dimers as novel building-block materials for electron spin-based scalable solid-state quantum computation.
  • Electronic modification of carbon nanotube systems by substitutional doping, capillary filling, or electrochemical interaction, in combination with the realisation of prototype devices.
  • Temperature-dependent structural studies through NMR spectroscopy (molecular and dynamical) and x-ray diffraction, and temperature-dependant vibrational studies via infrared and Raman spectroscopy.
  • Developing the production and purification of double-walled carbon nanotubes by both pulsed arc and vapoUr deposition techniques, and exploiting their durability to produce more reliable nano-transistors, and materials with potential applications for field emission-based flat screen displays.
  • By encapsulating metal element containing endohedral fullerenes within carbon nanotubes, the band gap tubes can be narrowed at the points corresponding to the positions of the endohedral fullerene. Preliminary results indicate these carbon peapods can be p-type, n-type, or am-bipolar, depending on the encapsulated atom. We are studying the effects of the encapsulated atom on the electronic transport of the fullerene.
  • Gadolinium-containing endohedral fullerenes are promising species for contrast enhancement in medical resonance imaging, having several advantages over conventional agents. The incarcerated highly toxic Gd3+ ion is severely sterically hindered to dissociation, and they are about 20 times as effective, thus are required in much smaller doses. We, in collaboration with researchers at the Institute of Chemistry at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing are currently investigating functionalisation of these species to make them water-soluble and specific tissue targeting. For example, we have recently produced bone-targeting Gd-based endohedral fullerenes.

For more information on our nanoscale carbon research, please contact Dr Baxendale, Dr Dennis, Dr Donovan, Prof. Dunstan, or Dr Sapelkin.

Our work on inorganic nanostructures includes

  • Investigating the effects of high hydrostatic pressure on structural and optical properties of nanostructures. This work has included the development of experimental techniques for local structural characterisation of materials under pressure using synchrotron radiation, particularly using EXAFS. We were involved in the development of the XAS3spectrometer at the Diamond synchrotron (becoming operational in 2009).
  • The preparation of nanostructures, their structural and optical characterisation, and their interaction with living neurons. The purpose of these latter efforts is to develop a nanostructure-based methods and techniques that will enable research into relationship between neuron network development, its topology and communications between the cells. Our recent work in this area has demonstrated that a significant degree of control over neuron network patterns can be achieved using nanostructures alone.

For more information on our work on inorganic nanostructures, please contact Dr Sapelkin.

We investigate the properties of molecular films. For more information contact Dr Donovan.

Finally, we have a research interest in modelling the nucleation of organic molecules: for instance, soot formation, which is a major environmental hazard. For more information contact Dr Misquitta.