Research Activity in the ATI
The ATI's activities are divided into four research groups: Nanoelectronics, Photonics, Ion Beams, and Theory and Computation. Science and technology on the nanoscale, technological applications of quantum science and engineering, and conversion of energy are some of the cross-cutting themes uniting the groups.
Since the opening of the ATI in 2002 we have celebrated some notable events and our researchers have generated high profile results across a range of activities, a select few of which are highlighted here:
- In 1986 Professor Alf Adams proposed the strained-layer quantum well laser. This has developed into a technology which is integral to CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray players and is used in manufacturing, medicine and environmental monitoring. Strained layer quantum wells are also being used in solid-state lighting and next generation solar cells.
- Theoretical work led to a series of highly acclaimed publications on the nature of temperature on the nanoscale, published in Physical Review Letters and selected as a research highlight in Nature News. Important theoretical results were also published on the properties of metamaterials. It was shown how the speed of light can be dramatically reduced in materials exhibiting 'negative refraction' (published in Nature, November 2007).
- A new method for controlled growth of carbon nanotubes at room temperature has been demonstrated at the ATI which led to the formation of a spin-out in partnership with a local industrial company, supported by £750,000 in venture capital, which has commercialised the growth method based on the ATI patent.
- In 2008 the Ion Beam Centre opened the world's first vertical scanning focussed nanobeam which is used to analyse how radiation effects living cells. This £1.5m project, underpinned by a prestigious grant of £800k from The Wolfson Foundation and supported by EPSRC, has been carried out in collaboration with the Gray Institute, Oxford University and the Addenbrookes NHS Trust, University of Cambridge.
- The remarkable ability of an electron to exist in two places at once was controlled in the most common electronic material - silicon - for the first time. The research findings, published in Nature by a UK-Dutch team from the University of Surrey, UCL, Heriot-Watt University and the FOM Institute for Plasma Physics - marked a significant step towards the making of an affordable "quantum computer".
- In 2010 the Ion Beam Centre delivered a record 3,500 hours of beam time to internal and external users who applied for it via EPSRC or EU grants (including SPIRIT) or who paid commercially to use its facilities. Projects ranged from the analysis of gun shot residue for forensics and cow dung for archaeology to the manufacture of state of the art semiconductor devices.