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Centre for Materials Physics


We have a lively research environment with access to world class facilities within the Centre. We also regularly use university-wide resources, such as the recently launched electron microscope facility as well as national and international facilities including synchrotron and neutron radiation sources, muon spectroscopy, high magnetic field facilities and supercomputers.

Internal Facilties

Please follow the links to learn about the facilities available to all members within the Centre for Materials Physics.

University facilities

International Facilities

The Centre for Materials Physics members regularly use many major national and international facilities, such as

Clicking on these links will take you to the relevant facility homepage.

Clean rooms

Dedicated clean Nanolab

Purpose built clean nanolab for sample fabrication, characterisation and measurements of nanostructured samples. This lab includes facilities for the chemical work involved in lithography.

Computational Hardware

High Performance Computing

  • Hamilton - Durham's ITS High Performance Computing cluster offers researchers in the University access to a computing service dedicated to solving numerically intensive physics problems.  

         1792 cores, 2.4GHz: 448 cores x 6Gb per core; 1344 cores x 3Gb per core.

         approx 700 cores, 2.2GHz: 2Gb per core.

         Infiniband interconnect.

  • HECToR - UK's high-end computing resource, funded by the UK Research Councils. It is available for use by academia and industry in the UK and Europe.

         44000 cores, 2.1GHz: 1.3Gb per core.

         Cray SeaStar2 interconnect.

  • Lagavulin and Cragganmore - small in-house clusters

         64 cores, 2.4GHz: 2Gb per core. Myrinet interconnect.

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Cryogenic Equipment

He-3 System:

Electron Spin Resonance Spectrometer


The Bruker EMX electron spin resonance spectrometer operates at X-band (9-10 GHz) and has an electromagnet capable of fields up to 1 T. Samples are usually in a powdered form, contained in high purity quartz tubes, though liquid samples may also be measured as can small single crystals. The spectrometer can be operated in a temperature range of 100 K to 500K and the microwave cavity has optical access.

An  Oxford Instruments Heliox system

for cooling to 245 mK that can be combined with magnetic sample environments for very low temperature, in-field measurements

Fabrication - Bulk Materials

Glove box

Used to prepare oxygen sensitive samples in an argon environment.  It has a pass box that allows objects as long as 800 mm (dependent on the extent of the remaining dimensions) to be exchanged between the protected and non-protected environments.

A range of milling machines

There is one Spex 8000D ball mill for small quantity, simple milling tasks that do not require a change in milling direction and three Fritsch Pulverisette 6 planetary ball mills for large quantity milling tasks where a change in milling direction and/or speed control are options.


There is one Carbolite 1200 oC (1150 oC prolonged working temperature[PWT]) 3-zone tube furnace for hydrogen atmosphere heat-treatments,  three Elite 1200 oC (1150 oC PWT) 3-zone tube furnaces for argon/nitrogen atmosphere heat-treatments and one Carbolite 1800 oC (1700 oC PWT) 3-zone tube furnace for argon/nitrogen atmosphere heat-treatments.

HIP operating at pressures of 2000 atmospheres and up to 2000 °C

There is one hot isostatic press operating at pressures up to 2000 bar and at temperatures up to 2000 oC.  Argon is used as a pressure medium but nitrogen can also be used if required. 

Fabrication - Single Crystal

Markov-based growth kit for vapour growth of CdTe. The method is also used to grow (Cd,Zn)Te

Close space sublimation of CdTe

Close-spaced sublimation (CSS) kit for the deposition of thin-film polycrystalline CdTe solar cells

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Fabrication - Thin film and Nanotubes

Thermal evaporation system

UHV thermal evaporator for the deposition of metallic thin-films ranging from a few nanometres up to several microns in thickness. Typical materials include NiFe alloys, alumimium and gold.

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Impedance Measurements

Electrical Characterisation:

  • Impedance Spectroscopy (Solartron) down to 4k
  • Current-voltage (I-V)
  • Capacitance-voltage (C-V)
  • Low temperature electrical measurements

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Magnetic Measurements and High Magnetic Fields

15 Tesla Helmholtz-like split-pair horizontal superconducting magnet

This recently installed device is unparalleled in the university sector world-wide.  It opens the exciting possibility of making JC(B,T,ε) measurements on anisotropic superconductors materials - which will be extremely valuable for developing our fundamental understanding and optimisation of new technological applications.

17 Tesla Superconducting Vertical Magnet

Used to perform current, voltage and strain measurements in magnetic fields up to 15 Tesla at temperatures down to 4.2 Kelvin using bespoke sample probes designed to control the temperature and strain of tape, wire and bulk sample. 

Magneto-Optic Kerr Effect Magnetometer (MOKE)

Magnetization switching behaviour of magnetic thin-films and nanostructures is measured using the change in polarization of light on reflection from a magnetized sample using the magnetooptic Kerr effect. The system can apply quasi-static and ultra-short pulsed magnetic fields to nanostructured samples.

Quantum Design MPMS System

"This is a Quantum Design Magnetic Properties Measurement System which is fitted with a 5T superconducting magnet. The standard temperature range of the instrument is from 1.8K to 360K, which can be extended to 800K after installing the QD oven option. Both the DC transport and Reciprocating Sample Option (RSO) transport are available for magnetic measurements."

Physical Properties Measurement System (PPMS)

Used to perform ac-susceptibility, dc-extraction, ac- and dc-transport, heat capacity and resistivity measurements in magnetic fields up to 9 Tesla and at temperatures down to 1.9 Kelvin.  A horizontal rotator option is available to allow sample rotation in a direction perpendicular to the applied field in the angle range -10 to 370 degrees.  A torque magnetometer option is also available for automated torque measurements.


New high-pressure system

A high pressure system capable of applying 1 GPa of hydrostatic pressure can be combined with magnetic and temperature controlled environments  to perform current and voltage measurements under high strains.  The system uses helium gas as a pressure medium. 

Differential Scanning Calorimetry and Thermogravimetric Analysis:

A Netzsch Simultaneous TG-DTA/DSC analyser is available to perform calorimetric and thermogravimetric measurements up to 1100 oC. 

Nanoscale Imaging and control

Multimode scanning electron microscope (SEM) including:

  • Electron beam-induced current (EBIC) amplifier
  • Light element energy-dispersive X-ray (EDX) detector

Transmission electron microscope including:

  • Cathodoluminescence detector and LN2 cold stage Argon and Iodine ion beam thinner
  • Argon and iodine beam thinners

Electron beam lithography system

This facility is based on a FEI field emission electron gun (SFEG) scanning electron microscope. Nanolithography is provided by a Raith Elphy Plus lithographic control system. Ultimate imaging resolution of the SEM is 5 nm (sample dependent) and feature sizes down to 40 nm have been patterned by electron beam lithography.

2 Ultra-high vacuum (UHV) SPM systems:

  • Omicron Variable Temperature VT-SPM
  • Nanograph systems RT STM

Focussed ion beam (FIB) system

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Optical/Laser Equipment

Femtosecond laser system

The femtosecond laser system allows investigations into the dynamics of photoexcitations on a temporal scale from 250 fs to 4 ns. This system is based around a Mira-900f Coherent Ti:Sapphire laser oscillator which feeds a RegA-9000 Coherent amplifier. This provides access to 250 fs, 4 µJ pulses of 100 kHz repetition rate at 1.60 eV. The system is used for pump probe spectroscopy where the dynamics of singlet excitons, charge-transfer and polaron states can be investigated. Our system also can be used to measure the triplet yield of polymers, and can be used in conjunction with a closed-cycle Helium cryostat to provide access to measurement temperatures down to 5K.

Picosecond laser system

Time correlated single photon counting is used to measure the fluorescence lifetime of materials, which are typically around 1 to 1.5 ns. A tuneable Mira-900 picosecond laser excites the sample and with second harmonic generation, site-specific excitation is possible. Low pulse energies combined with a 100 kHz repetition rate allow for acquisition of high signal-to-noise data. This system has an instrument response function of ~23 ps, which can be improved to ~3 ps with excitation pulse deconvolution.

Fluorescence lifetime measurements

Typically the excitations of the materials we look at have a natural lifetime of about 1 to 1.5 ns, but this is reduced by various quenching mechanisms. To measure this time regime accurately we use a technique called time correlated single photon counting. Sample excitation is performed using a tuneable Mira-900 picosecond laser, which in conujunction with second harmonic generation allows for site-specific excitation. Low pulse energies combined with a 100kHz repitition rate allow for aquisition of high signal-to-noise data. This system has an instrument response function of ~23ps, which can be improved to ~3ps with excitation pulse deconvolution.

Hamamatsu C5860 Streak Camera

In order to measure the spectral dynamics of fluorescence we use a Hamamatsu C5860 Streak Camera. This allows for the fluorescence lifetimes across a large near-continuous range of emission energies to be measurement simultaneously, providing significant insight into key photophysical processes such as exciton migration which have direct bearing on key device properties such as the photoluminescence quantum efficiency. This system operates with a ~5ps day-to-day time resolution.

YAG laser for Phosphorescence measurements

We make gated luminescence measurements using a system consisting excitation source, subnanosecond pulsed YAG laser using either 3rd or 2nd order harmonics (355 nm or 532 nm appropriately). The energy of each pulse can be tuned from nJ up to mJ, with the diameter of the beam falling on the sample normally in the range of from 0.1-1 cm (we can focus it depending on the sample size). With the help of a spectrograph and other optics, luminescence is collected onto a sensitive gated iCCD (intensified CCD) camera 4 Picos (Stanford Computer Optics) with sub nanosecond resolution. More information on phosphorescence measurements

Dedicated Clean Room for Organic light emitting diode fabrication and testing

The class 10,000 clean room contains a chemi-wet station for spin-coating of polymer films, an Edwards metal evaporator and an interferometric thickness measurement system for classification of thin films. The MBraun Glove Box with Suss spin-coater and encapsulation station, in conjunction with a Lesker Spectros evaporator (six organic or three inorganic sources) allows the fabrication of high quality OLED devices entirely in a controlled glove box environment.

Pump probe spectrometer

Pump-probe spectroscopy involves the use of two temporally displaced ultrafast laser pulses; one to excite a sample termed 'pump', and other to probe the absorption of the photoexcitations generated by the pump. In this case both pump and probe pulses come from a Coherent OPA-900 which is used to produce a variety of outputs, including a second-harmonic beam at 3.2eV, a single wavelength output (1.72-2.79eV), a white-light supercontinuum (1.24-2.70eV) and an Idler output (0.94-2.4µm).

The relative time delay between the two pulses is controlled by a mechanical delay stage. With this system we can directly investigate the dynamics of singlet excitons, charge-transfer and polaron states within a single experiment. Our system also can be used to measure the triplet yield of our polymers, and can be used in conjunction with a closed-cycle Helium cryostat to provide access to measurement temperatures down to 5K.

J A Woolam VASE Ellipsometer

The Variable Angle Spectroscopic Ellipsometer is used for measurement of thin film thickness, measurement of refractive index n and absorption coefficient k of organic materials, as well as determination of optical anisotropy and optical constants.

Software and Code

1st Principle Calculations

  • Materials Studio - create a periodic cell of material, atom-by-atom; analyse results; visualise infrared spectra and much more......
  • CASTEP  - a commercial (and academic) software package which uses density functional theory with a plane wave basis set to calculate the electronic properties of crystalline solids, surfaces, molecules, liquids and amorphous materials from first principles. CASTEP permits geometry optimisation and finite temperature molecular dynamics with implicit symmetry and geometry constraints, as well as calculation of a wide variety of derived properties of the electronic configuration. CASTEP has been completely written for use on parallel computers by researchers at the Universities of York, Durham, UCL, Cambridge and Rutherford Labs.

Photonic microstructures/microcavities

  • OmniSim and Crystal Wave - Finite difference time domain simulations of electromagnetic fields.
  • In-house - custom built, Fortran 90/95 programs.
  • In-house  - 4Gb RAM P.C. with dongle

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X-Ray Diffractometers

A high intensity rotating anode diffractometer

The Bede diffractometer has been modified with the addition of multi-layer focussing elemets, producing a small high intensity beam. With the ability to cool samples to 90 K, this is an invaluable instrument for sample alignment and characterisation, and initial x-ray experiments.

Bede diffractometer powered by an x-ray microsource

This diffractometer is used for thin film characterisation and reflectivity.

Grazing incidence reflectometer

For thin film studies.

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Waste management

Everyone requiring the disposal of hazardous waste must complete a Hazardous Waste Management Safety Information Record, it should be handed to David Pattinson prior to taking waste to the compound. The forms can be found on top of the in tray at the health and safety helpdesk, in room 135 or can be downloaded at the bottom of this page.

David has the authority to refuse to accept hazardous waste for disposal if the safety information record has not been completed to his satisfaction.

The hazardous waste storage area will be opened one day a week, this will be Wednesday mornings 10 - 10.15 am. Persons wishing to store waste within the area prior to disposal must take it to the waste storage compound at that time: no waste will be placed in the storage area at any other time.

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Blank waste disposal form


Pre-filled forms for CdTe compounds and CdCl2 contaminated materials