Research Facilities

The Engineering Department houses a wide range of facilities covering many areas from renewable energy to high-frequency electromagnetics. Our state-of-the-art equipment is in active use for world-leading research, as well as in undergraduate and postgraduate student research projects.

Additive Manufacturing

The Engineering Department plays host to a wide range of the latest in 3D printing and additive manufacturing technologies.

ZMorph multi-functional machine

This low-cost machine has a series of interchangeable heads that make it capable of being used as a polymer Fused Deposition Modelling extrusion process, a CNC router, a laser cutter/etcher and for those with a flair for something a bit more unusual, it can also be used for the extrusion of ceramic and chocolate when in a liquid/wet form. 

3D Touch

A low-cost desktop extrusion Fused Deposition Modelling machine that allows the dual deposition of polymeric materials, in order to build up the structurally strong component (e.g. in ABS) whilst also depositing a sacrificial support structure (e.g. in PLA).

Formlabs Form1

Based on the principles of Stereolithography, this desktop machine uses a 150mW ultraviolet laser to cure a photoreactive resin in individual layers in order to fabricate components. Although the material palette available is limited in choice, parts created are very accurate with an excellent surface finish.

Ultimaker 2

Another desktop Fused Deposition Modelling extrusion based machine, capable of building components in a wide variety of materials from the filament. More flexible than the Stratasys Dimension 1200 and cheaper to operate, however, component build quality is not quite as good.

Stratasys Dimension 1200

A more commercially focused Fused Deposition Modelling machine, differing from the low-cost desktop machines as it has a closed chamber, thus able to control the temperature of the environment and produce a more stable component. Filament extrusion of (primarily) ABS, although other materials are available.

Realizer 100

Selective Laser Melting technology, another powder-bed fusion process that uses a 100W Ytterbium fibre laser to melt metal powders to form fully functional metallic components. Able to process a wide range of metal powders including stainless steel, titanium, aluminium, cobalt chrome and tool steels.

ZCorp Spectrum Z510

A true 3D printer (in the context of being an inkjet-based process), the Spectrum Z510 has the ability to fabricate full-colour components in starch, plaster and other powdered materials. Comes with an additional deep-dip tank in which components are further strengthened through the infiltration of wax into the porous structure of the as-built parts. This machine has been re-purposed to enable the deposition of multi-materials (ceramics and metals) as part of an ongoing industrially-collaborative research project.

DTM Sinterstation 2000

The original Selective Laser Sintering technology, employing a powder-bed fusion of polymeric (and other) materials, utilising the energy from a 50W CO2 laser to bond Polyamide 12 (Nylon 12) powder to form tough resilient parts.

Chemical Laboratories

We have two wet chemistry laboratories, equipped with electrochemical workstations. These workstations are capable of techniques such as:

  • corrosion measurement
  • low current detection
  • electrochemical impedance spectroscopy

We have combined these with Quartz Crystal Microbalance and a liquid-liquid extraction cell.

Our other facilities include:

  • Scanning electron microscopes
  • Energy dispersive X-ray analysis
  • UV-visible spectroscopy
  • Raman spectroscopy
  • X-ray fluorescence

Materials fabrication facilities include a sputter coater for thin layer deposition and photoinduced electroless deposition rigs.

The active laboratory includes a glove box and is capable of handling open sources of ionising radiation. You can discuss further with the Departmental Radiation Officer.

Fuel Cells

We have two fuel cell laboratories including a gas safe lab for 24/7 unattended running of fuel cells. They are equipped with state-of-the-art technology.

  • Alkaline fuel cell test stand (AFC Energy)
  • Potentiostats and electronic loads most with EIS
  • Catalyst activity analysis capability and electrochemical techniques such as RRDE, Chemisorption active surface analysis and AFC Energy, along with some manufacturing facilities for small development cells such as milling, deposition techniques etc.
  • Capacity to explore many cycles and different gas conditions through access to world-class analytical facilities across the Faculty of Science and Technology

Laser Technology

The factory of the future will likely contain significant automation and non-contact cutting and joining methods including different laser processing technologies.

In preparation for this, we have a high-power laser processing workstation based on a 2 kW multimode IPG fibre laser. The beam from this is conveyed via a 200 μm internal diameter optical fibre to a processing head positioned on an ABB IRB140 6-axis robot within a large process chamber. The station is self-built for flexibility and ease of reconfiguration for both research and teaching applications. It is currently optimised for welding, cladding and direct metal deposition applications, but is also capable of cutting both metallic and non-metallic materials.‌

Materials Science

UV-Vis-Near IR spectroscopy with stopped flow

The Shimadzu UV-2600 spectrophotometer allows absorption/transmission and reflection spectroscopic measurement of solutions and solids throughout the ultraviolet and visible light ranges (185-900 nm). Its integrating sphere additionally allows measurements into the near infrared region (<1400 nm). The study of reaction kinetics is facilitated by the spectrometer’s fast scan speed and a dedicated TgK Scientific rapid mixing assembly.

Far-mid-near FTIR spectroscopy

The Shimadzu IR-tracer 100 Fourier transform infrared spectrometer provides high sensitivity measurements of infrared spectra from in the far- mid- and near-infrared regions (12500-240cm-1 / 800-42000 nm). An ATR stage and range of sample holders allow for the study of solutions, oils, powders and thin films.

HPLC

The Agilent 1220 Infinity LC System provides high-quality Ultra High-Performance Liquid Chromatography capabilities. Its high-pressure pump allows small particle size column packing for separation of complex mixtures of organic species. It is equipped with an autosampler and UV-detector allowing for rapid routine analysis of reaction by-products.  

TGA-DTA MS

The Hitachi STA 7200 Simultaneous Thermal analyser allows thermogravimetric measurements and differential thermal analysis to be carried out at the same time on organic/polymeric compounds and inorganic ceramics and metals. Very small mass changes can be measured (0.2 µg), up to temperatures of 1100ºC. Through coupling to a HIDEN HPR-20 QIC evolved gas analyser, the off-gases produced during decomposition of the compounds can be rapidly identified and quantified using mass spectrometry.

Microwave and Millimetre Wave

E-MIT group manages or has access to, a number of specialised laboratories at the Engineering Department and Cockcroft Institute. The vast amount of experimental resources available is fundamental to our cutting-edge research.

Microwave and Millimetre Wave Lab

Our high-power microwave laboratory provides an array of well-established facilities that are fully operative for research in the field of low-frequency vacuum tube and microwave components. A full set of equipment is available (ZVA40 Vector Network Analyzer (4 ports, 10MHz-40GHz), scalar network analysers, spectrum analyser, power meter, frequency generator, and ZVA-Z110 Frequency converter (WR10 75GHz to 110GHz).

Anechoic Chamber

Lancaster has two RF anechoic chambers. These are specially designed boxes which absorb all radio frequency signals that are emitted avoiding reflections inside the chamber. This is required to measure the performance of antennas and other sensitive radio frequency electronics.

High Energy X-ray Imaging

Lancaster has designed two high-energy X-ray sources for cargo imaging, both of which are currently based at Daresbury Laboratory. The sources use high-power microwaves to accelerate electrons to high energy before smashing them into a tungsten target to generate up to 3 MeV X-rays. This is then used to image cargo on the conveyor.

CRAB Lab

The CRAB lab at Daresbury is operated by Lancaster University and STFC (the Science and Technology Facilities Council). It is a state-of-the-art microwave measurement lab that includes mobile clean rooms and a 3-axis bead-pull facility. Here, a small perturbing bead can be accurately moved through 3 dimensions whilst RF performance is measured using a network analyser to map microwave fields in 3D.

High Power Magnetrons

Lancaster has a range of high-power magnetrons from 1 kW up to 3 MW at frequencies from 2.4 GHz up to 9.3 GHz. These are used for driving particle accelerators, RF processing and our novel research into phase-locked magnetrons. 

Veeco GENxplor Molecular Beam Epitaxy (MBE)

Lancaster has an MBE system ideal for photonics materials research on emerging technologies such as UV LEDs, solar cells and high-temperature superconductors. The MBE system allows for substrates up to 3” diameter and is ideal for cutting-edge research on a wide variety of materials including GaAs, nitrides and oxides.

Nuclear Engineering

We have two laboratories - the UTGARD and Neutron labs - that host cutting-edge equipment for Nuclear Engineering.

UTGARD Lab

UV-Vis-NearIR spectroscopy with stopped flow

The Shimadzu UV-2600 spectrophotometer enables the absorption/transmission and reflection spectroscopic measurement of solutions and solids, through ultraviolet and visible light ranges (185-900 nm). Its integrating sphere additionally allows measurements into the near infrared region (<1400 nm). The study of reaction kinetics is facilitated by the spectrometer’s fast scan speed and a dedicated TgK Scientific rapid mixing assembly.

Far-mid-near FTIR spectroscopy

The Shimadzu IR-tracer 100 Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometer provides high-sensitivity measurements of infrared spectra from in the far-, mid- and near-infrared regions (12500-240cm-1 / 800-42000 nm). An ATR stage and range of sample holders allow for the study of solutions, oils, powders and thin films.

HPLC

The Agilent 1220 Infinity LC System provides high-quality Ultra High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) capabilities. Its high-pressure pump allows small, particle-size column packing for separation of complex mixtures of organic species. It is equipped with an autosampler and UV detector allowing for rapid routine analysis of reaction by-products.  

TGA-DTA MS

The Hitachi STA 7200 Simultaneous Thermal analyser allows thermogravimetric measurements and differential thermal analysis to be carried out at the same time on organic/polymeric compounds and inorganic ceramics and metals. Very small mass changes can be measured (0.2 µg), reaching temperatures of 1100ºC. Through coupling to a HIDEN HPR-20 QIC evolved gas analyser, the off-gases produced during decomposition of the compounds can be rapidly identified and quantified using mass spectrometry.

Neutron lab

32-detector neutron calorimeter

Used for neutron multiplicity assay formally part of the National Nuclear Users' Facility (NNUF).

Robotics

We are developing intelligent control systems for robots.

These are for use in unstructured, uncertain and hostile environments. There is a focus on robots for use in the nuclear industry. The BROKK-40 is a next-generation mobile robotic platform. We are developing this in collaboration with National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) and Sellafield Ltd. It has been used at the NNL's Workington laboratory for trials in relation to a Sellafield Ltd material discrimination project.

The base system is a BROKK-40 decommissioning robot, consisting of:

  • a moving vehicle with a single five degree of freedom manipulator
  • hydraulic tank
  • a remote control device

Attached to the BROKK are two HydroLek seven-function actuated manipulators. Each has six rotary joints and a gripper. The present focus is to utilise the system's dual manipulators for research into both teleoperated and semi-autonomous tasks in the nuclear sector. These could include such tasks as remote pipe cutting and welding.

Wave Energy

The Engineering Department has had wave tank testing facilities since the 1970s. Waves are created by 7 force feedback paddles. The paddles are capable of creating Pierson Markowitz spectra appropriate for 1/50th to 1/100th scale testing. Sine wave frequencies between 0.5-1.5~Hz are possible with amplitudes up to 100mm. The tank is equipped with 16 wave gauges, plus a variety of other data acquisition software. The area has a wireless connection. While primarily used for internal research and a valuable teaching aid, our facilities are available for use by external companies. For more details regarding availability, rates and possible funding assistance, contact Steve Quayle.

Low Head Hydro Power

The Low Head Hydro Power facility at Lancaster has been used as a research tool to explore the means of converting energy from a low-head hydro source, using syphons to convert from water to air pressure. Compared with a conventional turbine solution, the civil engineering required is minimal, and the turbines used are relatively inexpensive. Furthermore, much of the plant can be located on dry land.

Turbine Lab

The Gilkes turbine tutor facility has been fully automated and can be used for initial testing of prototype turbine models. The testing procedure for both Francis and Pelton units automatically converts the acquired data into efficiency hill charts, which can be quickly used to evaluate and compare the performance of initial turbine prototypes.

Pump & Cavitation Lab

The Turbine Technologies Pump Lab offers a clear view pump housing and the fluid circuit for the testing of centrifugal impellers. Visual vaporisation bubbles help in the understanding and correlation of cavitation phenomena.

Inline Turbine Lab

A number of novel inline turbines have been developed using the Inline Turbine Lab facility, the idea being that a direct drive turbine can be placed into municipal water to replace a PRV in line with the existing mains pipework to capture energy loss. The advantage of this is it offers a more efficient exploitation of hydroelectric generation.

Travelling Wave Tube Fabrication Laboratory

Our Travelling Wave Tube (TWT) Fabrication Laboratory features many state-of-the-art facilities. A TWT is a specialized vacuum tube that is used in electronics to amplify radio frequency signals in the microwave range. The TWT belongs to a category of "linear beam" tubes, such as the klystron, in which the radio wave is amplified by absorbing power from a beam of electrons as it passes down the tube.

Our facilities are divided into Slow Wave Structure Microfabrication and Electron Gun Assembly facilities.

Slow Wave Structure Microfabrication

  • CNC Milling
  • UV-LIGA
  • Vacuum Leakage Detector
  • Diffusion Bonding Vacuum Furnace
  • High Precision Laser Welding

Electron Gun Assembly

  • Clean Room Class 1000
  • Vacuum Pumps
  • HV Power Supples