AMPL has an extensive technical support section which oversees the many and varied technical requirements of the department . Due to the highly specialised nature of the work conducted in AMPL, almost all of the experimental equipment used in the department is designed and made within the school. Below is a brief outline of some of this work, and some photographic examples of the experiments that we build.
For further information regarding support in the department please contact Stephen Battisson.
This is where the crazy ideas of the academics are turned into something that has a chance of working. The drawing boards of old are now all gone, replaced by computers running various types of Computer Aided Design (CAD) programs including AutoCAD r13 and Solidworks. The latter piece of software is a relatively recent addition and gives us complete 3D modeling capabilities, enabling such things as mass properties, stress analysis and interference detection calculations, rendered image output, and general visualisation from any viewpoint before the design is put into production. Our many experiments have diverse requirements which is reflected in the skills of the technicians involved. Ultra-high vacuum, zero magnetic fields, extremes of temperature (ranging from cryogenic to many hundreds of degrees) and the ability to transmit light at ultraviolet frequencies restricts our use of materials and proprietary equipment, so great care is taken in their selection in the design phase. Other standard vacuum practices such as providing pumpout of trapped volumes etc is observed wherever possible. When the design is completed it's time to turn the crazy idea into reality.
AMPL works in conjunction with RSPhysSE's main Mechanical and Electronic workshops to construct the thousands of components that make up our experiments. Typically, large projects are constructed in the school's main workshop, while smaller scale and more specialised work is carried out in the department. We have lathes, drilling and milling machines, welding equipment, precision ceramic grinding facilities as well as various highly specialised measuring and cleaning equipment in an AS1807-1989 compliant cleanroom. The Schools' Mechanical Workshop has large lathes and milling machines in both Computer Numeric (CNC) and manual control, a precision grinding shop, extensive welding facilities including Plasma, TIG and MIG, a fully equipped sheet metal shop, a recently acquired CNC Electrical Discharge Wire Cutter and all the assorted measuring equipment required for the high precision work that is performed. Basically if it can't be made here- it can't be made!
Cleaning and assembly of components destined for use in an ultra-high vacuum environment is a task in itself, the parts must be absolutely clean to achieve a good vacuum. Various processes are employed depending upon the level ofcleanliness required up to and including vapour degreasing using boiling Isopropanol. We have full helium leak detection facilities and all welded assemblies are checked before being put into service, it is very rare to find faults with the welding carried out in the school, however minuscule material faults can sometimes cause large, or even worse- the very small leaks that are so difficult to find.
Alongside the general maintenance and slavery involved in the day to day running of the department, the technicians have evolved the skills and equipment necessary to maintain and rebuild the specialised equipment that is commonly used. High powered Excimer and Dye Lasers are used in various parts of the department while virtually all of the experiments are conducted in high and ultra-high vacuum conditions requiring various types of pumps including rotary vane, ion, diffusion, and turbomolecular. While most of this equipment is ludicrously reliable, when a problem is encountered a swift response is required, so whether it's a dye change in a laser or a bearing change in a turbo pump, the skills are on hand to solve the problem as quickly as possible.