Advanced Manufacturing

Advanced manufacturing is seen as a key cross-cutting focus in the UK government’s industrial strategy, from the production of electric cars to 3D printing to robotics. RCaH is well placed with spokes of two of the UK’s Future Manufacturing Hubs based at RCaH (MAPP and CMAC), and strong links to the automotive sector through the Faraday Institute.

This theme has several groups at RCaH: the Centre for in situ Processing Studies (CIPS), the Multifunctional and Materials Composites Laboratory, and Advanced Metallic Manufacturing. There are also two highly multi-disciplinary EPSRC Future Manufacturing Research Hubs: Continuous Manufacturing and Advanced Crystallisation (CMAC) and Powder Manufacturing (MAPP).

The CIPS group has continued to develop novel correlative modelling techniques (e.g. probing the deformation and fracture properties of Cu/W nano-multilayers by in situ SEM and synchrotron XRD strain microscopy) and apply these to challenges in aerospace to additive manufacturing, using ISIS, DLS and EM facilities. The Tan Group has continued to manufacture novel thin films, MOFs and other materials for applications in energy to healthcare.

The two Future Manufacturing Research Hubs each have a core group of engineers, chemists, mathematicians and X-ray physicists who act as a conduit for the benefit of UK-wide activity. CMAC also provides an interface between the campus and the pharmaceutical industry. MAPP has developed the world’s first in situ laser powder bed additive manufacturing machine, which enables researchers to look into the heart of the process with synchrotron X-rays, while correlatively imaging with optical and IR wavelengths.

Harwell XPS EPSRC National Facility for X-Ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy

We offer access to state-of-the-art spectrometers for photoelectron spectroscopy in our main laboratory based at RCaH.

Principal Investigator: Professor Philip Davies

We offer access to state-of-the-art spectrometers for photoelectron spectroscopy in our main laboratory based at RCaH. Together with our partner hubs offering specialist analysis at Cardiff University, UCL and the University of Manchester, the Harwell XPS service provides access to a wider range of XPS analysis methods than previously available to UK academia and industry, including:

  • XPS and UPS
  • angle resolved XPS (ARXPS)
  • XPS imaging
  • ion scattering spectroscopy (ISS/LEIS)
  • cluster and monotomic ion depth profiling
  • high energy XPS and near ambient pressure (NAP) XPS
  • high temperature and pressure treatments.


Our research focuses on developing advanced Raman spectroscopy ‘through-barrier’ methods for non-invasive probing of turbid media.

Principal Investigator: Professor Pavel Matousek

Research focuses on the development of advanced Raman spectroscopy ‘through-barrier’ methods for non-invasive disease diagnosis (e.g. breast cancer and bone disease diagnosis), security screening (airport security, detection of hazardous materials), cultural heritage (intact analysis of painted layers) and pharmaceutical analysis (quality control) and the development of advanced nano-photonic concepts for personalised, single-session cancer diagnosis and treatment.

A number of approaches used are based around spatially offset Raman spectroscopy (SORS), a patented concept originating from research on the CLF-RCaH ULTRA facility. These activities are carried out with numerous external partners including Exeter University (Professor Nicholas Stone), UCL (Professor Allen Goodship), STFC (Professor Tony Parker) and CNR-ICVBC in Milan (Dr Claudia Conti).

The research also has a strong commercial component: for example, with the co-founding in 2008 of Cobalt Light Systems Ltd. Cobalt developed commercial SORS scanners that are deployed at more than 75 airports to scan liquids in bottles (e.g. baby milk, medicine) and 30 pharmaceutical companies worldwide in quality control, inspecting finished products and incoming raw materials by intact means. In 2017, Cobalt was acquired by Agilent for £40 million, forming in Oxford its global centre for Raman spectroscopy.

Pavel is an Honorary Professor at University College London and an STFC Senior Fellow (main role) and his research is conducted within LSF-CLF unit at RCaH. His main research funders include STFC and EPSRC.

Materials Design & Manufacturing

Our research focuses on the X-ray imaging and computational simulation of materials at a microstructural level.

Principal Investigator: Professor Peter Lee

Our research focuses on the X-ray imaging and computational simulation of materials at a microstructural level. We have pioneered the development of in situ and operando techniques, enabling the design of new materials for processes ranging from fabricating aeroengine components to additive manufacturing to ice cream. We have also pioneering multiscale and through-process modelling (Integrated Computational Materials Engineering, ICME) as applied to these processes, working with companies including Rolls-Royce, Ford and Unilever.

The group makes the most of being based in RCaH. We focus on developing nano-precision rigs that simulate the processing of materials on a synchrotron beamline, enabling us to see inside materials in 3D as they change in time (4D imaging). Our work is revealing how microstructures evolve in aerospace and automotive materials, as well as biological and geological systems. Our results and open-source codes (including uMatIC, which simulates three-phase flow to predict solidification microstructures) have been exploited internationally by aerospace, automotive, energy and biomedical companies to solve important engineering challenges – from developing additive manufactured human joint replacements to producing light-alloy automotive components.

Our group frequently acts as a hub for other academics and industrialists to perform feasibility studies at Harwell Campus to initiate new academic and industrial studies using the large facilities here (e.g. Diamond Light Source, ISIS Neutron Source, the Central Laser Facilities). We have more than 12 active projects, including:

Oxford MBE Group @ Harwell

Our group focuses on the growth of quantum materials in the form of thin films and of nanostructures using molecular beam epitaxy, UHV sputtering and CVD.

Principal Investigator: Professor Thorsten Hesjedal

The Oxford MBE Group @ Harwell focuses on the growth of ferromagnets, topological insulators and magnetic insulators through molecular beam epitaxy (MBE), sputtering and chemical vapour deposition (CVD). Topological insulators are a cutting-edge class of materials where only the surface states are conducting, but perfectly so, and have transformative potential for the electronics industry. We seek to probe the resilience and character of this topological state through high-precision growth techniques that allow us to minutely tune properties, such as through doping with ferromagnetic ions, bilayering or cleaving.

MBE, our main deposition technique, allows for growth of high-quality single-crystal films by deposition onto a substrate material of molecular beams produced from ultra-high purity elemental sources. MBE growth, a stalwart of the semiconductor industry, is used by our group to grow thin films of Bi2Se3 and Bi2Te3 and related compounds. These films are then used in a wide range of experiments with our collaborators at ISIS and Diamond as well as further afield to try and probe the fundamental nature of the topological surface state.

Our characterisation methods include X-ray diffraction and reflectometry, muon spin rotation, resonant elastic X-ray scattering, X-ray spectroscopy, polarised neutron reflectometry, neutron diffraction, ferromagnetic resonance and angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy. Our fortunate position near world-leading facilities gives us access to a diverse community of scientific knowledge as well as second-to-none experiments through which we study our samples and push at the boundaries of our current understanding.

Oxide Physics

We specialise in the crystal growth of exotic transition metal oxides, to study properties such as superconductivity and quantum magnetism.

Principal Investigator: Dr Robin Perry

We specialise in the crystal growth of exotic transition metal oxides with a view to studying fundamental properties such as superconductivity and quantum magnetism.

Oxide materials display a rich variety of physical phenomena – e.g. ferroelectricity, multiferroicity, superconductivity and transparent metallicity, all of which have the potential to underpin next-generation electronic devices.

Single crystals are mandatory for the elucidation of intrinsic physics as the basic theories of matter require momentum-resolved information in order to be tested. We collaborate with many groups at both ISIS and Diamond to pursue the experimental measurements, for example I05, B18, I16 (Diamond) and Merlin, SXD and LET (ISIS).

The chemical microprobe and X-ray facilities at RCaH are crucial for our work as they allow us to carefully characterise our samples in preparation for the large facility experiments.