Composites for Big Science
Our experience with epoxy formulations for science has been proven over many decades and has an international reputation. We have a history in projects such as the
ITER fusion facility,
CERN's LHC ATLAS magnets, and
DELPHI on CERN's LEP before that. These formulations are also often used in industry for superconducting magnets, for example in MRI scanners where reliability at very low temperatures is crucial.
We have facilities for the manufacture of small production runs of components used in science, including the following:
Components for use in space (e.g. the
Huygens probe to Titan, and environmental monitoring satellites)
Impregnation or “potting" of electro-magnets, both conventional copper and superconducting
Preparation and bonding of scientific assemblies
Production of high-integrity bus bars for powerful magnets
Production of very high quality, low void content composites
Vacuum chambers, ovens, and composite mixing facilities also support our manufacturing activities.
Neutron absorbing materials
We specialise in the formulation and production of neutron-absorbing materials. These are used to increase the signal-to-noise of neutron detectors, much like how baffles in an astronomical telescope prevent nearby lights from spoiling the view of a star. We supply materials to neutron scattering facilities, for example,
ISIS at STFC and
ESS in Sweden.
We have provided boron carbide composites to all of the ISIS instruments over the 30+ years of its operation. These formulations have been developed to better suit the needs of experiments, and feature no abrasive grit shedding and very high boron carbide content, up to 80% by weight.
We are working to support the
ISIS Endeavour programme which will upgrade ISIS's neutron instruments. Upgrading detectors and neutron shielding using recently developed material formulations is a key component of this programme and supports the competitiveness of UK science.
A modern suite of materials testing equipment is available to support the development of new formulations. The Malvern Rheometer and Netzsch DMA can measure the flow (viscosity) and curing behaviour of the liquid materials. We use Testometric testing machines with custom sample environments to determine the strength and stiffness of the finished materials over a wide range of temperatures, routinely -196°C to 300°C and sometimes outside this range, as projects demand.
We also test the finished composite parts using thermal analysis methods; using Netzsch DSC and TGA analysis. This gives data for design engineers to use.
Microscopy using Zeiss LSM and Olympus light microscopes helps us analyse a wide range of materials to characterise surfaces, perform dimensional measurements, and inform materials development projects.
Our testing facilities include:
Cryogenic 100kN servo-hydraulic testing machine
Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC)
Dynamic Mechanical Analysis (DMA)
Fourier Transformed Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR)
Testometric 50kN screw-driven testing machine
Thermogravimetric Analysis (TGA)
We use AM or “3D printing" to make moulds for manufacturing composites. This can be a more flexible, sustainable and cost-effective method, compared to machining from metal.
Chemistry and Safety
Our chemists provide an important role in ensuring that our work is carried out safely, and appropriate disposal routes are used for hazardous materials, with minimal environmental impact.
For enquiries regarding Composite Materials please contact Simon Canfer and, for enquiries regarding Materials Testing, please contact Steve Robertson.