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Bristol, England – The University of Bristol has opened a state of the art center for nanoscience research, featuring what is claimed to be the world’s quietest room.
The $18 million Centre for Nanoscience and Quantum Information (NQSI) features specialised laboratories where vibration and acoustic noise levels are among the lowest ever achieved, despite being located in the centre of Bristol City. The basement houses the low noise area with a suite of ultra-low vibration nanoscience laboratories that are anchored to the rock below.
Because of the size of the materials involved – between one and 100 nanometers – complete stillness is essential to an experiment’s success. There is virtually no air movement inside the lab.
Neal Stephens, Managing Director of Willmott Dixon, the company responsible for building the center, said: “Due to the stringent and exacting nature of nanoscience, the new facility had to meet the most detailed constraints for vibration and acoustics. An extremely controlled environment is paramount with almost zero vibration, acoustic and air movements. The demands, therefore, for quality in construction and delivery were second-to-none.
“We anticipate that this state-of-the-art facility will attract very considerable interest, not only from scientists but also those keen to learn more about the unique challenges faced by the construction team and the ways in which they were overcome.”
Examples of research already on-going include a novel material made of tiny diamonds that is set to create a new and greener way of producing electricity.
The material’s unique properties will enable the sun’s heat to be converted directly into electricity. The unique environment offered by the NSQI will allow experiments on this material to be undertaken at levels of precision surpassing that achieved in other laboratories around the world.
Collaborations are already under way with biomedical groups working on cardiac stem cells and neurons. A cancerous cell has very different properties from a healthy cell, so by probing it with nano-tools information about its surface properties could be obtained, aiding those engaged in the fight against cancer. Such tools may also be capable of modifying cells using a kind of nanosurgery.
The University’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Eric Thomas, said: “Creating the NSQI Centre is a statement of intent that the University of Bristol is committed to attracting and retaining many of the world’s foremost researchers in Nanoscience and Quantum Information, ensuring that the south-west of England is well-placed to benefit from the resulting growth in technology, and reinforcing the University’s position as a leader of innovation in the UK.”
In addition to the quiet room, the center also features other hi-tech aspects in its design. The curved Portuguese limestone on the main elevation is set out in the Fibonacci Series, a sequence of numbers first created by the Italian mathematician, Leonardo Fibonacci, in 1202.
The atrium dome is shaped like a bucky ball, a molecular structure resembling a soccer ball and composed entirely of carbon atoms and named after Richard Buckminster ‘Bucky’ Fuller. Self-cleaning glass has also been installed which uses nano-particles to break down dirt which is then washed away by rainwater.