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Science fiction meets science fact at particle accelerator opening

20 March 2018

A world-leading scientific research facility at the University of Huddersfield has been officially launched by one of the world’s most famous actors, Sir Patrick Stewart.

Sir Patrick Stewart and MIAMI-2

Yorkshire-born, he is the University’s Emeritus Chancellor. “Every time I visit, there is something new and remarkable,” he said after being shown the unique, dual-beam ion accelerator named MIAMI-2, housed in its own purpose-built, two-storey lab. The project received £3.5 million in funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

MIAMI stands for Microscope and Ion Accelerator for Materials Investigation. MIAMI-1 is still operational and offers unique opportunities for scientists to carry out nano-scale investigation of the effects of radiation damage on materials, including those used in the nuclear industry and in space.

Now the £3.5 million MIAMI-2 represents a major step forward, enabling the irradiation of samples in an electron microscope with dual ion beams.

There are very few comparable facilities in the world, and already scientists from Europe, Russia and the USA have formed research collaborations and made use of MIAMI-2’s capabilities. For example, nano-diamonds found in meteorites that landed in Siberia have been analysed at the University of Huddersfield. 

When Sir Patrick visited the MIAMI labs, he was accompanied by the facility’s originator, Professor Steve Donnelly, who is Dean of Computing and Engineering at the University. He gave Sir Patrick a detailed tour and explanation of the electron microscope on the ground floor and the upper-level accelerator.

Sir Patrick Stewart and Professor Steve Donnelly meet the press at the opening of MIAMI-2

At the opening ceremony, Professor Donnelly told how when he was working many years ago at an American research institute, he dreamed of having an equivalent facility in the UK. Now, he had one and it was even better. He praised his colleagues Dr Jonathan Hinks and Dr Graeme Greaves for their work in developing MIAMI-2.

The Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor Bob Cryan, expressed his pride in the MIAMI-2 and the real world impact of its research, such as a key contribution to a major EU-backed project named Il Trovatore, investigating new cladding materials that will ensure safe nuclear power reactors.

Before unveiling a commemorative plaque, Sir Patrick spoke about his association with the University of Huddersfield, where he was Chancellor between 2004 and 2015. The Mirfield-born actor said that the relationship with the University was one of the most important he had known in his life.

The official opening day for MIAMI was attended by scientists specialising in electron microscopy at six “Northern Powerhouse” universities. They gave talks describing their research.

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