Materials engineering


SPECIFIC has installed new, state of the art laboratories at the Baglan Bay Innovation Centre. The labs allow researchers to quickly test out a new idea and collect robust scientific data allowing new products and processes to be developed and understood.
The labs include various scientific apparatus including:

  • Scanning Electron Microscopes (with EDS capability)
  • Atomic Force Microscopy with a Kelvin Probe attachment
  • NIR lamps
  • Profilometer
  • Metallographic preparation
  • Electrochemical equipment (SVET, SKP, EIS)
  • SIMS
  • TGA - GCMS
  • DSC

Mechanical testing

  • Four laboratories dedicated to high temperature creep testing of metals, ceramics and polymers. These include several full size constant-stress creep machines and eight specialised machines for creep testing miniature disk specimens that weigh less than one gram. Tests can be carried out in inert gas environments.
  • Servo-mechanical laboratory containing machines equipped for low and high cycle fatigue at ambient and elevated temperatures. Some of these machines can also perform tension-torsion testing.
  • Thermo-mechanical testing machine equipped with rapid induction heating to allow thermal fatigue tests to be carried out.
  • Single-shot servo-hydraulic machine, capable of high rates of compressive deformation, for studying forging of cylindrical specimens with an axi-symmetric stress state.
  • Unique custom-built apparatus called the Advanced Semi-Solid Elongation Test (ASSET) for studying the mechanical behaviour of alloys at the extreme temperatures above and just below the solidus. This has a temperature capability of 1400°C and employs a non-contact optical strain measurement system based on digital linescan cameras.


A range of software and associated expertise is available for modelling processes such as forging and casting, together with commercial CAD and FEM analysis packages. The centre has several high-specification PCs attached to the University network.

Materials engineering

Microstructural investigation

  • Phillips (FEI) XL30 controlled pressure Scanning Electron Microscope with a HKL Nordlys Electron Back Scatter Diffraction (EBSD) system
  • Jeol JSM 35C Scanning Electron Microscope with a Link Isis Energy Dispersive X-ray (EDX) Spectroscopy unit
  • Jeol JSM 6100 Scanning Electron Microscope with an Oxford Opal Electron Back Scatter Diffraction (EBSD) system
  • Millbrook Instruments Secondary Ion Mass Spectroscopy (SIMS) unit • A Reichert-Jung MEF3 Optical Microscope
  • Digital image capture and image analysis software • Several bench optical microscopes for routine investigations
  • Metallographic preparation laboratory

Thermal treatment

  • Marchwood Laboratory houses two Gleeble machines (models 3500 and 1500) capable of heating specimens by direct resistance heating at rates in excess of 10000 °C per second. The combined cost of this equipment was in the region of £0.5 million. These machines can be used to subject materials to a pre-determined temperature-time profile (such as that in a weld heat affected zone) and simultaneously apply compressive or tensile stresses. Tests can be carried out in air, an inert gas environment or a vacuum.
  • Range of creep testing machines, including those for testing miniature specimens.
  • Several conventional furnaces are also available in a dedicated laboratory with a range of size capacities, temperature capabilities and inert gas/vacuum options.

Corrosion and coatings

  • 5 Scanning Vibrating Electrode Technique apparatus (SVET)
  • 3 Scanning Kelvin Probe apparatus (SKP)
  • Atomic Force Microscope (AFM)
  • Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometer (SIMS)
  • 3 Fourier Transform Infra Red (FTIR) analysers, one with a microscope attachment for analysis of chemical composition
  • Potentiostats and equipment for EIS, polarisation and cyclic voltammetry
  • Electrogenerated chemiluminescence apparatus (ECL)
  • Calibrated light sources for photovoltaic development