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18 August, 2014 - 10:00 By News Desk

World-class materials imaging hothouse created


An Oxbridge collaboration between Cambridge company Johnson Matthey, Oxford University and Diamond Light Source has created a world-class materials imaging hothouse for the UK.

It is being based at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus – close to both Oxford University and Johnson Matthey’s Sonning Common Research laboratories. And it is home to Diamond, the UK’s synchrotron science facility, where currently 24 experimental stations (beamlines) are operational with funding in place to increase this number to 33 by 2018.

As part of Diamond’s pioneering hard X-ray nanoprobe beamline (I14) and electron microscopy centre, Johnson Matthey and Oxford University will each contribute cutting-edge microscopes from JEOL to support research in the physical sciences.

These microscopes will complement two other advanced electron microscopes that will also be built at the new centre as part of a national facility for Cryo-Electron Microscopy. The partners say the new centre will offer unrivalled facilities for research across the biological and physical sciences.

The hard X-ray nanoprobe will take structural analysis with detailed element mapping to the highest spatial X-ray resolution available anywhere in the world.

Oxford University will bring a unique JEOL 300kV electron microscope dedicated to atomic scale imaging at world-leading resolution and Johnson Matthey will install a world-leading JEOL double-EDX and EELS capable microscope dedicated to chemical analysis with atomic scale resolution.

Collaborations between Johnson Matthey, Oxford University and Diamond’s I14 beamline will facilitate the interchange of samples between these systems and enable analyses at near-duty catalytic conditions to observe the influence of chemical and thermal challenges on material structure.

Dr Elizabeth Rowsell, director of the Johnson Matthey Technology Centre said: “This is an exciting development for Johnson Matthey research; we chose to bring our investment to Diamond’s I14 beamline to further strengthen our extensive collaborations in advanced characterisation.”

Professor Andrew Hamilton, vice-chancellor of Oxford University, said: “Bringing together these powerful instruments in one place will be hugely beneficial to researchers, both in academia and industry, who are studying materials at the atomic scale.

“This new facility could lead to advances in many exciting research areas including graphene technology and the development of cleaner, greener fuels.”

Enhancing one of its core business strengths, Johnson Matthey has also established a site for a new catalyst plant in Brazil that will initially manufacture catalysts for hydrogen production. The facility is expected to start operating by the end of 2014 and will initially employ around 15 people.

Around the world, ‘on purpose’ hydrogen capacities in refineries is increasing due to tighter fuel specification, the processing of heavier and sourer crudes, increasing need for lighter crude oil products and strong demand for chemical intermediates.

The new investment is an integral part of JM’s ongoing development in refinery hydrogen plant catalysis in conjunction with Petrobras, exploring options to further improve hydrogen plant efficiency, reliability and throughput.

Johnson Matthey already has nine catalyst manufacturing plants across sic countries and divisional director Geoff Otterman, said the initiative would be expanded. “It is our intention to expand our manufacturing capability here to include products such as catalysts and adsorbents for gasto liquids and gas purification,” he said.

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: (L-R) Robert MacLeod (Chief Executive), Peter Ash (Technology Manager), Den Jones (Group Finance Director), Trevor Rayment (Physical Sciences Director Diamond), Elizabeth Rowsell (Director, Johnson Matthey Technology Centre). Picture courtesy of Diamond Light Source

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