With up to 10% of Diamond's overall user beamtime available for industrial use, 35 different companies are now taking advantage of the wide range of facilities on offer. The third year of industrial usage has seen Diamond’s commercial customers use 16 beamlines and supporting laboratories. The scope of scientific areas being explored is broad; it includes drug discovery, engineering challenges, catalysts and more.
Johnson Matthey is a speciality Chemicals Company with its main Technology Centre based in Sonning Common near Reading. Its key research areas focus on catalysis, precious metals, fine chemicals and process technology. They access Diamond via the proprietary route and also apply for peer-reviewed beamtime in collaboration with leading UK academics, publishing their findings from these experiments. “Non proprietary work allows, amongst other aspects, an opportunity for methodology development in the areas of in situ characterisation while working with academically relevant catalysts and materials,” explains Dr Tim Hyde, Principal Scientist at Johnson Matthey. “This is a great way to work as we help to develop techniques that everyone can use through the peer review system. Once these techniques are available we may be in a position to apply them to our materials under the proprietary arrangement for industry.”
Image: Johnson Matthey scientists at Diamond's Non Crystalline Diffraction (Small Angle X-ray Scattering) beamline I22.
The company utilises several beamlines at Diamond, employing three main advanced characterisation techniques to better understand materials and chemical processes – X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy (XAS), Small Angle X-ray Scattering (SAXS) and High Resolution Powder Diffraction. “These techniques allow us to study a wide range of materials, as they cover the length scale spectrum from long range order in crystalline phase to short range order of amorphous materials,” says Tim.
One area where Johnson Matthey is using synchrotron light is in the investigation of gold nanoparticle formation. They currently produce several 2 to 5 nm defined gold nanoparticle suspensions that have been used in catalysis and are also used as precursors in a wide variety of diverse applications such as gold inks in screen printed circuit tracks and high impact stationery. Formation of a controlled and narrow gold particle size distribution is key to enhanced product functionality. Collaborating with Professor Gopinathan Sankar of University College London through a Royal Society Industry Fellowship, Tim and his team are using Diamond and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) to understand the rate of nanoparticle formation through temperature and time dependent experimental studies.
“We have developed a method to determine in situ the oxidation state of dissolved and particulate gold complexes in solution concurrently with the shape, size and number of the formed particles by probing the original colloid,” explains Tim. “This research has allowed us to better understand gold nucleation and growth processes – a key factor in obtaining the required narrow size distribution of formed gold particles for optimal nanoparticulate functionality.”
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