One of the few universities to have its own proving factory

Capabilities

SPECIFIC is a vibrant base where ideas are shared, tested, scaled up and developed into cutting-edge technologies. Inside we have all the office, meeting and breakout space needed to facilitate collaboration between academics and industrialists. But what really makes SPECIFIC stand out from other innovation centres is our £6 million pilot production plant, which allows concepts that have been brought to life on a small scale in our fully-equipped laboratories to be modified and manufactured to the point of market readiness.


Pilot Manufacturing Resource Centre

Swansea University is one of the few universities to have its own proving factory. SPECIFIC's pilot production plant is unique in the world. It is a vital stepping-stone in the development of our novel coatings, as they mature from lab samples into real products, and it is also a proving ground for the new industry and the manufacturing systems that will drive their commercial success. With academics and product development specialists working closely together, on one site, ideas can move quickly between the lab and factory floor.

We have established three manufacturing lines in a bespoke clean room environment.

  • The Sheet Coater, which opened in 2012, is capable of demonstrating full-scale manufacture of sheet steel, glass and polymer substrate technologies of up to 1.4m2.
  • The Smartcoater coil line was installed in early 2014, and can coat flexible polymer substrates of 100mm wide and up to 200m long.
  • Our newest, the coil reel to reel line was officially inaugurated by Edwina Hart, Welsh Government Minister for Economy, Science and Transport in June 2014. It is capable of continuously processing flexible steel materials up to 300mm in width and 2km length.

In addition to the pilot manufacturing facilities, labs and engineering workshops support product integration and system development and allow us to build demonstrators and bespoke equipment in-house.


Laboratory Facilities

Housed in modern laboratories, the facilities at SPECIFIC are state of the art and provide a fundamental platform for our research into smart industrial coatings to flourish. These laboratories allow researchers to rapidly evaluate new ideas and collect robust scientific data, which means that new products and processes can be developed and appreciated quickly. Together with our theme leading researchers the equipment housed at SPECIFIC creates extensive and vast capabilities in the fields of coatings, surface science and corrosion.

 

SPECIFIC’s capabilities extend over a multitude of disciplines, although are primarily recognised for their impact in the following fields:

Up-Scaling for large scale manufacture

The laboratories in the Pilot Manufacturing Resource Centre have been designed to support the pilot production facility at SPECIFIC. They provide the ability to rapidly and flexibly tailor printable or coatable fluids, inks, novel active formulations and paints in volumes sufficient both for the ongoing scale-up works and for detailed materials characterisation and development. To this end the laboratories house a range of analytical instruments and physical test apparatuses that allow us to test and record physical properties of liquids and to robustly test performance of coatings for the particular characteristic under development.

In depth research is supported by high magnification electron microscopes and high technology chemical microprobe analysis tools using x-ray for elemental analysis.

Under development is a laser laboratory which will further probe the performance of parts of chemical molecules and determine their contribution to the behaviour of the product system.

Corrosion and Surface Science

SPECIFIC can be considered world-leading experts in the use of advanced electrochemical scanning techniques. We use devices designed and built in-house –such as the Scanning Vibrating Electrode Technique (SVET) and the Scanning Kelvin Probe (SKP) – for the detection and exploration of localised corrosion mechanisms in coated and uncoated metallic materials. The SVET detects the potential gradients produced by local currents in actively corroding surfaces that are immersed in an electrolyte. The SKP measures the electrochemical potential of surfaces covered by extremely thin and resistive electrolyte layers, which allows the study of local electrochemical processes occurring beneath poorly conducting films such as organic or inorganic coatings. You can find more information about these techniques, along with relevant contact details by downloading the following documents

Additional research capabilities in this field include: smart-release anti-corrosion coatings, novel fingerprint detection techniques, chemical sensors and surface profilometry.

Materials Characterisation and Chemical Analysis

At SPECIFIC we can fully characterise bulk materials, coatings and thin films by determining composition and structure, surface area and pore size distribution and porosity. Detailed investigations of crystallographic structures and identification and quantification of crystalline phases present in powders, thin coatings/films, metal surfaces, ceramics and organic materials are all possible through X-Ray Diffraction (XRD), whilst quantitative elemental composition, empirical formula and chemical/oxidation states of elements within a material can be determined and measured using our X-ray Photoelectron Spectrometers (XPS). Imaging of nano-structures along with conventional high magnification imaging is also achievable using high performance field emission Scanning Electron Microscopes (SEM).

Further chemical analysis of materials and gases is possible via Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) with associated Thermo Gravimetric Analysis (TGA). This prestigious facility allows substances within organic compounds to be clearly identified and quantified. Combining this with highly accurate analysis of material weight loss over a range of temperatures using the TGA yields data about the varying volatilisation and combustion points of the materials being tested. Our TGA is linked via a high temperature transfer line to the GCMS allowing for the analysis of any gases evolved during testing with the TGA, a feature exclusive in the UK.

Additional research capabilities in this field include: specific heat capacity measurements using Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) and measurement of total solar reflectance using UV-Vis-NIR Spectrophotometry.

Accelerated Weathering Analysis of Materials & Coatings

SPECIFIC has the capability to simulate outdoor weathering effects to a component, material or coating by utilising Accelerated Weathering test facilities to analyse the effects of UV radiation, moisture, humidity and dew over the lifetime of a component (months or years in service). We can provide this critical analysis in just a few weeks, indoors, within the comfort of the laboratory. These facilities support the extensive ongoing coatings research at the centre, and include: Atlas Weatherometer, QUV cabinets, salt fog and spray baths.

Coatings Manufacturing & Characterisation

SPECIFIC has the facilities to make and characterise all 3rd generation photovoltaic technologies. We have numerous deposition techniques that are used to develop multi-layer PV on a range of substrates. These include bar casting, screen-printing, spin-coating and slot-die coating. Our general approach is to take processes that are difficult to carry out at a large-scale manufacturing level and develop new or alternative processes to deposit layers in a quick and simple manner that are conducive to scale. One example of this is removing lengthy heating steps through rapid heating methods such as using one of our near-infrared (NIR) ovens. This research into improving processing steps is complimented by an impressive suite of characterisation techniques. PV efficiencies are calculated with our Oriel Sol Class AAA solar simulator with integrated sample rail for automated measurements. Quantum efficiency (QE) measurements, which provide information on the solar cell response at given wavelengths of light, can be carried out using our QEX 10 quantum efficiency measurement system. Electrochemical characterisation of devices and of individual layers can be made via electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) and cyclic voltammetry. Optoelectronic transient and charge extraction measurements are performed using our home built transient system; this illuminates a device to a steady state and then uses a pulse of light to induce a perturbation. The transient rig is an extremely powerful tool that provides us with information about the concentration of charge stored in the film under working conditions, as well as the transport and recombination of charge carriers within a device.

Under the Sêr Solar programme SPECIFIC is developing its capabilities in the area of applied photochemistry and device physics with a new photochemistry and spectroscopy suite. This sits in a niche area, complimenting current applied lab scale experimentation but ultimately providing the key fundamental answers on materials sets that are suitable for scaling.

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ADDRESS


Baglan Bay Innovation Centre,
Central Avenue
Baglan,
Port Talbot,
SA12 7AX.

T: +44 (0)1792 606867
E: info-specific@swansea.ac.uk


Content available in Welsh on request by emailing info-specific@swansea.ac.uk