Our research facilities for materials preparation range from vacuum melting and casting for special alloys, through crystal growth equipment for rare-earth and very reactive alloys to melt-spinning facilities for the production of rapidly cooled alloys, atomizers to make metal powders and laser ablation equipment for the production of multilayer and superconducting materials.
Surface engineering facilities allow plasma nitriding, boriding, carburising and other surface treatments to be carried out on a range of alloys under controlled conditions, and we have recently installed plasma-spray equipment to produce coatings. There are polymer-processing laboratories and the IRC possesses a large plasma-melting furnace, HIP equipment, direct laser fabrication, a laboratory for the hydrothermal synthesis and colloidal processing of ceramics, and the ?8 million Net Shape Manufacturing Laboratory.
The physical techniques laboratory contains a range of equipment for processes including VSM, dilatometry, differential scanning calorimetry, electrical resistivity and density measurements. The world-class mechanical testing laboratories consist of approximately 30 facilities for fracture and fatigue studies over the temperature range of -196 to 1,500?C, and are accredited by Rolls-Royce for the acquisition and interpretation of data.
Seven creep machines from Nuclear Electric form the basis of a creep-testing laboratory, and thermogravimetric balances, also donated by Nuclear Electric, allow sensitive oxidation measurements to be made at temperatures up to 1,400?C. There is specialised mechanical testing for polymers and foams, at strain rates from creep to impact. X-ray diffraction facilities provide essential back-up to the crystal growth and alloy preparation activities.
Microstructural assessment is well provided for, with a wide range of optical microscopes and quantitative image analysis, and extensive electron microscope facilities. The Electron Microscope Centre provides a service to all schools in the University, as well as to the Midlands region. The five SEMs include
a JEOL 7000F with WDX, EDX and EBSD;
an FEI FEG ESEM with cryo and heating (1500?C) stages.
The TEMs include
a 200 kV FEI Tecnai F20 FEG(S)TEM with PEELS, EDX and HAADF.
A scanning Auger facility with an X-ray photo-electric spectrometer (XPS) is available for a wide range of surface studies and we also have an atomic force microscope.
The new hydrogen technology laboratory has a range of equipment to characterize the properties of materials in hydrogen. This includes two constant pressure Thermogravimetric Analysers, and a volumetric PCT system to measure the uptake and sorption kinetics of hydrogen storage materials.
A recent addition has been the Netzch differential scanning calorimeter (DSC) with simultaneous thermal analysis (STA). Nicolet Magna-IR infrared and Raman spectrometers are being used to study polymer and ceramic-type materials. Other novel analytical equipment in this category include simultaneous DSC and FTIR, DSC and non-contact thermo-mechanical analysis.
The Department has good facilities for the fabrication and characterization of optical fibre sensors including sensor systems for strain, temperature, vibration, acoustic emission and chemical sensing. The autoclave-based processing of advanced fibre reinforced composites is carried out in the Astro-Physics Department.
We have excellent workshop facilities and a large suite of networked PCs, housed in a computing laboratory provided by Corus, which supplements the extensive computer facilities in individual research groups.