BRITAIN is set to take the lead in advanced materials science research thanks to a Pounds 842,000 grant from the Higher Education Funding Council. The money, to be matched by cash from Italy, will be used to build the world's most advanced spectrometer, capable of analysis at the atomic level.
The machine, named TOSCA and to be built at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire, will advance the study of materials enormously, leading to the development of improved and completely new products for a huge range of applications.
Bob Newport of Kent University is heading the British end of the joint project while Franco Ricci, at the University of Rome, is leading the Italian contingent.
Physicist Dr Newport said: "This is a very major step forward in our abilities to look inside what are increasingly complex materials. It means that the UK is out in front in this area of research."
Dr Newport, who will help with the design of TOSCA, said that the spectrometer would use the Appleton laboratory's powerful neutron beam to probe the atomic structures of materials. It will be useful in analysing hydrocarbon materials and areas of research would include semiconductors, high-tech glass and low-friction coatings.