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Durham University

X-ray Science


Latest Stories

An Internationally Leading National Programme on Skyrmions

The Skyrmion Project is a national programme of strategic importance to the UK funded by an EPSRC Programme grant. The Skyrmion Project unites groups from Cambridge, Oxford, Southampton and Warwick and is led by Durham. At Durham this includes Peter Hatton (Project Director) and Tom Lancaster (Key Challenge Leader), PDRA Murray Wilson, and NSERC Fellow, together with PhD students Max Birch, Thomas Hicken, Luke Turnbull, Sam Moody, Zachary Hawkhead, all looked after by Project administrator Penny Carse. Recently the project was evaluated by a mid-term Review panel of EPSRC chaired by Prof. Sir John Pendry and deemed to be “Internationally Leading”. The Project is funded until 2022.

The UK Skyrmion Project:

(8 May 2019)

Lab Refurbishment and New Location of Triple Axis Diffractometer

Our four-circle triple-axis diffractometer and new rotating-anode x-ray source have been moved from Ph134 to Ph5 on the ground floor. We are very grateful to the university for the funds for refurbishment of the ground floor laboratories in the Rochester building so that our equipment could be moved to more suitable and mechanically stable location. The new laboratory is air conditioned and temperature controlled as well as occupying a ground floor which is better suited for high-resolution measurements. A photograph of the high-resolution diffractometer in its new home is shown below. 

(8 May 2019)

A Highly successful Research Conversation about X-ray Free Electron Lasers

The Durham X-ray Centre and the Research Office jointly organised a one-day Research Conversation with colleagues from Physics, Chemistry, Earth Sciences, and Engineering Departments at Durham on Wednesday 17th April 2019. X-ray free electron lasers offer new and unparalleled opportunities for ultrafast dynamic studies of atoms and lasers with atomic resolution. Invited speakers included Dr. Thomas Tschentscher, Scientific Director at the European XFEL, Dr. Allen Orville, Group Leader at the UK XFEL Hub at Diamond Light Source and Professor Malcolm McMahon, Department of Physics (specialising in High Pressure Physics) at the University of Edinburgh. The event was attended by a record number of participants and excellent talks and discussions. Hopefully this will start Durham academics taking advantage of the latest national and international x-ray free electron lasers in their research. 

(8 May 2019)

How to increase the lifetime of metastable skyrmions

The UK Skyrmion Project has recently discovered an unusual effect of doping. Single crystals of the chiral cubic material Cu2OSeO3 were grown doped with controlled amounts of zinc. These non-magnetic dopants slightly decrease the overall magnetisation and also reduce slightly the critical temperature TC. Max Birch (PhD student) however found that this caused a dramatic increase in the lifetime of metastable skyrmions by a factor of 50 for just 2.5% zinc doping. Our results have been published in Physical Review Materials and Physical Review B.

Related Publications:
"Origin of skyrmion lattice phase splitting in Zn-substituted Cu2OSeO3"

"Increased lifetime of metastable skyrmions by doping"

(8 May 2019)

X-ray Holography of Biskyrmions

Biskyrmions are believed to be composed of two counter rotating Bloch skyrmions forming a new type of skyrmion molecule. However detailed Lorentz Transmission Electron Microscopy measurements (undertaken at Cambridge) and X-ray Holography (performed at the Soleil synchrotron Paris) have demonstrated that the biskyrmions in MnNiGa are in fact magnetic bubbles due to a misinterpretation of demagnetising fields. This work has been published in Advanced Materials, with a video abstract and also as a highlight on the SOLEIL website. 

Related Publication: 
'Do Images of Biskyrmions show Type II Bubbles?", Louden et. al.,

Related Web Article:
"Bursting Bubbles: A Holographic Examination of Magnetic Biskyrmions on Sextants"

(8 May 2019)

New Laue Camera installed in Physics

As part of an EPSRC equipment grant to Professor Ivana Evans (Chemistry), the Durham X-ray Centre has a new Laue Camera installed in Ph7 in Physics. The Laue camera can be used to index the diffraction from single crystals and hence know the orientation. The laboratory also includes equipment for cutting and polishing faces of crystals. This equipment is bookable by all members of the Durham X-ray Centre. A picture of the newly installed Laue Camera and x-ray generator is shown below. 

(8 May 2019)

New floating zone furnace delivered

The floating Zone furnace arrived from Crystal Systems Corporation and will install the furnace on Monday 6th November. There will be a training workshop on Tuesday 7th and Wednesday 8th November. Once Ivana Evans has everything properly installed and commissioned there will be a single crystal growth facility website announced.

(29 Nov 2017) » More about New floating zone furnace delivered

New Laue Diffractometer ordered

A new Laue diffractometer has been ordered from Multiwire Laboratories Ltd. This is part of the EPSRC grant for a Durham single crystal growth facility (PI Dr Ivana Evans, Chemistry). This will arrive in January 2018 and be housed within the Physics Department as a service for the characterisation and alignment of single crystals.

(29 Nov 2017) » More about New Laue Diffractometer ordered

Synchrotron X-ray Diffraction of skyrmionic crystals

Sam Moody, a level 4 undergraduate research project student, recently visited the single crystal diffraction beamline (I19) at Diamond to undertake an experiment. Sam collected 0.86 TB of anomalous single-crystal data collected around the Cu and Zn absorption edges on pure and doped skyrmionic materials, which he now needs to analyse! He was accompanied by Peter Hatton and Tony the hedgehog who can be found in the photo below.

(29 Nov 2017) » More about Synchrotron X-ray Diffraction of skyrmionic crystals

X-Rays used to better understand Solar Cell material

Congratulations to Doug Halliday and his PhD student Chris Bosson who have recently published a high-resolution synchrotron powder diffraction study of the solar cell material Cu2ZnSnS4. Their recent paper (Chemistry of Materials 29(22): 9829-9839 (2017)) follows an earlier high-resolution neutron study on the same material (Journal of Materials Chemistry, A 2017, 5, 16672). A news item is being prepared for both Diamond and ISIS websites as well as the Department of Physics and DEI.

(29 Nov 2017) » More about X-Rays used to better understand Solar Cell material

2014 Howard Prize Lecture - X-ray Crystallography

This years Howard Prize Lecture will be delivered by Dr. Arwen Pearson, with the title " Combining X-ray crystallography and complementary methods to understand biological mechanism"

Monday 7th April

3:30-4:30 Hogan Lovells lecture theatre, Palatine Centre. 

(4 Apr 2014)

X-Ray Microscope has a big impact!

The X-ray Tomography service has been accepting users since the 30th September. In the first two weeks X-ray tomographs have been generated for academics from five different departments in Durham and Newcastle with a total scanning time of over 180 hours!

(15 Oct 2013)

XRCT First Scans

The Zeiss XRadia is now being commissioned and first 3D volumes are being produced. Please fill in the online booking form if you would like to use it!

(10 Sep 2013)

Delivery of ZEISS Xradia 410 Versa

The new x-ray tomography equipment has been delivered to the engineering department and is currently being installed. With a resolution of 1um this will provide a valuable analysis technique available for all users of the University and the local area. 

Please see the 'facilities' section for more information.

(4 Sep 2013)

EPSRC Grant of £461k awarded to Dr. Charles Augarde for XRCT

Dr Charles Augarde has received a grant of £461K from EPSRC, and an additional £242K from the University, to fund a new X-ray Computed Tomography (XRCT) facility to be based in the School of Engineering and Computing Sciences. 

(9 Jan 2013) » More about EPSRC Grant of £461k awarded to Dr. Charles Augarde for XRCT

Soft X-ray Diffractometer Development

Durham had been awarded a £75k contract by the National Synchrotron Radiation Research Center, to develop a new soft x-ray diffractometer for Taiwan Photon Source. This project is a direct result of Taiwanese scientists being impressed with RASOR, the soft x-ray diffractometer designed in Durham and based at Diamond Light Source.

(5 Mar 2012)