World-leading physics laboratories opened by education secretary

Thursday 21 May 2015

Education Secretary Angela Constance today (Thursday 21 May) officially opened a £3.7m physics facility that will put the University of St Andrews at the forefront of research into superconductors and light-emitting materials.

The facility consists of an ultra-low vibration (ULV) laboratory and a new cleanroom and nanofabrication facility. They have been jointly funded by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and the University as part of the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance (SUPA).

The ULV laboratory will be the most advanced in the UK and one of just a handful worldwide. It will allow imaging and study of individual atoms in advanced materials, with the vision to tailor them for future applications. The materials studied in this new facility include superconductors which conduct electricity without losses, and quantum materials for next generation technologies.

New physics lab mainbody

Ms Constance said: “Scotland’s universities are amongst the world’s best and enjoy a great international reputation with four universities in the Top 200 in the world, including St Andrews.

“St Andrews was highly regarded in last year’s Research Excellence Framework and is now best in Scotland in the latest Leiden rankings, for which they should be congratulated. The opening of this unique new Ultra-Low Vibration Laboratory Facility reflects the very best of academic research in Scotland and the University can be very pleased with what it has created here.

“A strong, vibrant and diverse economy is essential to our national prosperity and in creating the wealth to support high quality public services. Universities and facilities such as this play a key role in both providing research that could contribute hugely to our economy while also ensuring that high quality learning opportunities are on offer.”

Dr Peter Wahl, Reader in Experimental Condensed Matter Physics in the School of Physics and Astronomy, who will run the facility, said: “This facility will provide an ultra-low vibration environment for the custom-built microscopes developed in my group. It will allow us to see individual atoms and study their magnetism.”

The new clean room will provide a clean environment for the development of new electronic and photonic materials and devices. Photonics is the science of light and is important across everyday life for communications, displays, lighting, solar cells and sensors. By making tiny, wavelength scale structures, the generation and propagation of light can be controlled, and new materials and devices created.

Professor Ifor Samuel, Director of Research in the School of Physics and Astronomy, said: “2015 is the International Year of Light, and we are very excited to have these new facilities to advance our research on lasers and optoelectronic materials, enabling us to explore their applications in solar power, displays, communications and healthcare.”

These new facilities will strengthen the research capabilities of SUPA and the position of St Andrews as one of the top physics schools in the UK. They complement recent funding for ‘Capital for Great Technologies’ from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). They are also an important step in building an International Max-Planck Partnership linking Scottish universities to world-leading research institutes.

Notes to news editors

The newly published Leiden Ranking 2015 places the University at 45 in the overall placings, and ninth in the UK.

The full rankings are available at:

Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office, contactable on 01334 462530 or [email protected].

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