A considerable amount of specialized equipment, much of which is unique, has been accumulated and developed as a result of our research activities. Our philosophy when developing new equipment has been to try to extend the range of materials properties (vapour pressure, melting point, reactivity and radioactivity) with which we can cope. Thus, we are now able to prepare samples with melting points in excess of 2500 K, to handle reactive and radioactive materials and to work with samples which have all but the very highest vapour pressures.
Our purification research has encompassed zone refining, sublimation, solid state electrotransport and vacuum melting, and we have used these techniques to refine several elements to the highest purities ever reported. Our crystal growth facilities have been similarly developed so that we can now grow crystals under UHV-rated conditions using the Czochralski, float zoning, Bridgman and solid state techniques. In 2003, the group acquired a crystal growth image furnace which gave us the means to expand our activities from almost exclusively metallic systems to non-conductors such as oxides.
A full list of our facilities:
1. Sample melting equipment
- Large arc furnace : For samples up to 5 cm
- Small arc furnace : Includes welding facility for sealing crucibles
- High pressure arc furnace : For melting high vapour pressure materials
- UHV cold boat : For high purity materials with low to medium vapour pressures
- Dedicated UHV cold boat : Dedicated to U and Th work
- High vacuum cold boat : For general purpose melting
5. Specimen preparation and characterization
- Spark machines : Fabricating specimens (one dedicated to U, Th work)
- X-ray Laue equipment : Checking crystallinity and aligning crystals
- X-ray diffractometer and generator
- X-ray Debye Scherrer cameras and generator
- Diamond saws : Cutting specimens and preparing oriented single crystals
- Density measuring equipment
- Optical microscopes
- Metallographic polishing wheels
- Glove box assembly : For U and Th work
For detailed microstructural characterization and analysis, the Group has access to the department’s state of the art SEM and TEM facilities.