2021 IOP Technician Award - Team

Sample Environment Cryogenics Team, ISIS Neutron and Muon Source

For providing exceptional ultra-low temperature and high magnetic field technical support, contributing to more than 500 neutron- and muon-scattering experiments annually at the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source.


Sample Environment Cryogenics Team, ISIS Neutron and Muon Source 2021 IOP Technician Award winner

Team members Richard Down, Jeff Keeping, Chris Lawson, Dave Bunce, Paul Frodsham, Robert Major, Jon Timms, Dale Keeping, Matthew Baston, William Bradbury, Alexander Jones and Mark Devonport are responsible for developing, operating and maintaining the large inventory of cryogenic equipment used by an international community of more than 3,000 academic and industrial researchers at the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source, a particle accelerator the size of several football pitches, on the Harwell Campus near Oxford.

The team is recognised as one of the best providers of cryogenic sample environments for neutron scattering in the world, delivering one of the most intense experimental schedules. Working closely with researchers, they support more than 500 experiments annually, with over 100 at less than 1 Kelvin.

The equipment supplied and operated by the team is highly complex and capable of producing environments for experiments at temperatures as low as 20 milli-Kelvin using cryostats and dilution refrigerators, and magnetic fields of up to 13.5 tesla using superconducting magnets.

Often, several pieces of equipment and techniques are combined to obtain multiple environments for a single experiment. The combination of low temperature and high magnetic field parameters enables a broad range of cutting-edge science, including superconductivity, quantum criticality, low-temperature magnetism, quantum fluids and solids, and spintronics.

In the last decade, ISIS users have published over 5,000 scientific publications. All these experiments have used cryogenic equipment provided and supported by the cryogenics team, who are included in many publications as co-authors.

The team works closely with senior academics and students, sharing their experience and expertise and developing students’ skills. The team also hosts apprentice placements, sandwich students and international visiting researchers to enable training and knowledge exchange.

A consequence of low-temperature science is the need for helium but it is vital this is managed sustainably. Over the last five years, the team has risen to this challenge by researching, developing, building and operating a helium recovery plant for the facility, also capable of servicing the local campus.

This advancement has been made possible through collaborations with colleagues at neutron facilities across Europe. These collaborations between ISIS technicians and their counterparts in other facilities ensure that equipment and techniques available to scientists in the UK continue to be state of the art.