EPSRC Funds Research Networks In Physics

January 15, 1998

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council has invested £150,000 in three new physics networks to bring together leading UK researchers and groups in academia and industry to stimulate new ideas.

The Networks bring together groups of researchers working in rapidly developing interdisciplinary areas which are likely to have significant industrial spin-off. They are intended to stimulate novel ideas, to capitalise on new experimental and computational techniques, and to lead to eventual commercial interest.

The three Networks to be funded are:

Quantum Optics Network - coordinator Professor Peter Knight, Blackett Laboratory, Imperial College London;

Network for Liquid Matter - coordinator Professor John Finney, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University College London;

Soft Condensed Matter - coordinator Dr Peter Olmsted of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leeds.

Each Network is being funded for three years and involves around a dozen research groups in University physics and other departments (such as chemistry or engineering), in companies and in other research organisations.

The Networks will organise a series of open workshops as well as meetings focused on specific issues, and will sponsor working visits between research groups.

EPSRC is now making a second call for networks proposals, with a closing date of 4 March 1998. It is envisaged that a further three networks will be funded each receiving up to £50,000.

Further information

Mary Fridlington EPSRC Physics programme: (01793) 444445, Fax (01793) 444007, e-mail: mary.fridlington@epsrc.ac.uk


The networks are:

Quantum Optics (http://www.lsr.ph.ic.ac.uk/TQO/EPSRC/) The Quantum Optics Network will bring together leading researchers and their groups to investigate three areas combining quantum theory and laser experiments based on non-linear optics. The largest area is that of quantum information processing - using the principle of quantum coherence to encode and process information. The telecommunications industry is taking a great interest in quantum cryptography which offers the potential to provide a perfectly secure method of transmitting information. The development of logic elements that work at the quantum level is another, long-term goal. Quantum computers would be able to perform operations quite impossible with classical devices. The second area is cavity quantum electrodynamics where the behaviour of a light source is modified and controlled by trapping it in a cavity which is small compared with the wavelength. This work is not only relevant to an understanding of fundamental physics but could also lead to new types of microlasers and better time and frequency standards. The final area covers nonclassical states of light such as so-called squeezed states where light is produced with less quantum noise than a vacuum (because of the Uncertainty Principle). This perfectly coherent light can be used to test quantum correlations over distances - important for quantum cryptography, and for highly precise spectroscopy and metrology. The Network will run one large meeting a year and a series of specialised workshops in which subgroups address specific issues. Professor Knight stresses that the Network will be kept as 'open' as possible: groups working in the area which are not currently included in the Network are invited to join. Members of the UK Quantum Optics Network University of Bangor (Electronic Engineering and Computing Systems), BT Laboratories, DRA Malvern, University of Essex Physics), University of Exeter (Physics), Hewlett Packard Laboratories, ICSTM, (Physics), National Physical Laboratory, University of Oxford (Physics), Queen's University Belfast (Physics), University of Strathclyde (Physics), University of Sussex, (Physics).

Liquid Matter (http://www.liquidnet.ucl.ac.uk (soon to be created) The UK also holds a leading position in liquid matter studies on which the Liquid Matter Network intends to capitalise by strengthening the UK research community. The area covers the study of solutions of strongly interacting molecular systems at the microscopic level, such as ionic solutions, solutions of biomolecules, and interfaces between different liquids and between liquids and solids. It is highly interdisciplinary and is relevant to areas, such as food technology, biotechnology, oil and gas recovery, corrosion studies and CFC replacements. The Network plans to take advantage of recent developments in several areas. On the experimental front, advanced instrumentation at central facilities - improved neutron sources and the new generation of synchrotron radiation sources - will allow researchers to carry out experiments on relatively complicated liquid systems - essentially doing crystallography in solution. This, however, raises issues of interpretation, and the community has begun to develop new computational techniques - particularly those for dealing with data from neutron scattering methods using isotopic substitution. Increased computational power is enabling major progress to be made on first-principles simulations at the atomic level. It is allowing groups to tackle more complex liquid systems which are relevant to industrial needs - and so wealth creation. The Network will also design a liquid-matter commissioning programme for the GEM diffractometer being built at ISIS.

Following a launch meeting, there are plans to hold three workshops on the core areas above. Although there is only one industrial participant (ICI) in the Network, Professor Finney stresses that many of the participants already have strong links with companies as diverse as British Aerospace, Pilkington and Pirelli. Members of the UK Network for Liquid Matter Birkbeck College London (Crystallography), University of Bristol (Physics), University of Cambridge (Chemistry), University of East Anglia (Physics), ICI Runcorn, ISIS Facility, CCLRC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Keele University (Physics), University of Kent at Canterbury (Physics), University of Liverpool (Chemistry), University of Oxford (Chemistry), Queen's University Belfast (Physics), University College London (Physics)

Soft Condensed Matter (http://www.irc.leeds.ac.uk/soft-matter/) Like liquid matter, soft condensed matter is not as well-understood as condensed matter, and depends on the development of a better theoretical understanding and of new computer modelling techniques. Soft condensed matter studies involve the investigation at the mesoscopic [i.e. of length scales between 100A and 1 micron ] level of complex, often heterogeneous fluid materials such as polymer solutions, surfactants and liquid crystals. The Soft Condensed Matter Network will concentrate on three main areas: the kinetics of phase changes and the role of metastability [when the state of a system transforms after a finite time], particularly in systems far from equilibrium, such as the complex structures in soap solutions, and developing appropriate theories; flow processes in rheology such as the changes in polymer structure induced by shear forces when flowing down a pipe; and the mesoscopic modelling of soft materials - at length scales of micrometres or millimetres. On these scales, simulations at the atomic level are impractical, so 'coarse-grained' techniques have been developed which should capture the essential physics. These techniques will provide information about the evolution of structure that cannot be found out by experiment and give guidance for theoretical models. The Network will focus on unifying physical principles rather than specific applications. Like liquid matter, with which there is some overlap, applications cover many areas such as food, personal care products, petroleum, paints, coatings and plastics. Consequently the network has several industrial collaborators and much of the dissemination will be through direct industrial contacts. The Network will also have an annual workshop and summer school, a series of bilateral exchanges between laboratories. It is also planned to set up a series of smaller science and user groups. Members of the Soft Condensed Matter Network University of Bristol (Chemistry), University of Cambridge (Physics), University of Edinburgh (Physics), ICI, ICSTM (Chemical Engineering), University of Leeds (Physics), University of Oxford (Physics), Schlumberger, Unilever,

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

Related Engineering Articles from Brightsurf:

Re-engineering antibodies for COVID-19
Catholic University of America researcher uses 'in silico' analysis to fast-track passive immunity

Next frontier in bacterial engineering
A new technique overcomes a serious hurdle in the field of bacterial design and engineering.

COVID-19 and the role of tissue engineering
Tissue engineering has a unique set of tools and technologies for developing preventive strategies, diagnostics, and treatments that can play an important role during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Engineering the meniscus
Damage to the meniscus is common, but there remains an unmet need for improved restorative therapies that can overcome poor healing in the avascular regions.

Artificially engineering the intestine
Short bowel syndrome is a debilitating condition with few treatment options, and these treatments have limited efficacy.

Reverse engineering the fireworks of life
An interdisciplinary team of Princeton researchers has successfully reverse engineered the components and sequence of events that lead to microtubule branching.

New method for engineering metabolic pathways
Two approaches provide a faster way to create enzymes and analyze their reactions, leading to the design of more complex molecules.

Engineering for high-speed devices
A research team from the University of Delaware has developed cutting-edge technology for photonics devices that could enable faster communications between phones and computers.

Breakthrough in blood vessel engineering
Growing functional blood vessel networks is no easy task. Previously, other groups have made networks that span millimeters in size.

Next-gen batteries possible with new engineering approach
Dramatically longer-lasting, faster-charging and safer lithium metal batteries may be possible, according to Penn State research, recently published in Nature Energy.

Read More: Engineering News and Engineering Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.