Since 2009 the read heads of all hard disks have used a technology based
on magnesium oxide (MgO). The development of this technology can be partly
attributed to a 2001 publication [3.1] co-authored by Dr Andrey Umerski of
The Open University, which concluded that a system based on MgO would lead
to a huge increase in magnetoresistance, a physical property that
determines the efficiency of hard disk read heads.
In 2004 these theoretical predictions were confirmed experimentally; by
2008 the new type of read head based on MgO was manufactured commercially,
leading to significant increases in storage capacity, from GBs to TBs.
The significant increase in hard disk storage capacity in the last few
years can be in part attributed to theoretical research in Mathematics
undertaken at City University London. A material or device is said to
exhibit the property of magnetoresistance if its electrical resistance
changes when the direction of an external magnetic field is varied. The
work undertaken at City concluded that devices based on magnesium oxide
(MgO) would exhibit magnetoresistances very much larger than previously
observed. In 2004 these conclusions were confirmed experimentally. By 2008
a new type of disk read head (the device that senses data on a magnetic
disk) based on this structure was being manufactured commercially,
enabling a significant increase in hard disk storage capacity. Today all
computer hard disks use read heads based on this technology in an industry
with 2012 sales exceeding $28 billion. The increase in hard disk storage
capacity achieved (from gigabytes to terabytes: 1 terabyte = 1,000
gigabytes) and the consequent improvement in disk performance for users
can be partly attributed to the City research.
A device developed for spintronics research at the University of Oxford
has been adapted as the basis for robust, high-performance position or
composition sensors to detect many different materials including metals,
plastics, ceramics and fluids. These sensors are capable of making
contactless measurements in very hostile environments. A spin-out company
was formed in 2004 to exploit and apply this technology to a wide range of
technical and engineering problems and has achieved over £2.5m revenue.
These sensors form the key elements of products that have been
successfully deployed in automotive and other transport applications.
Benefits to end users include ease of use, speed and the cost savings.
A software package called CPO has been developed that simulates the
motion of charged particles
in electromagnetic fields. More than 200 benchmark tests have established
CPO as the gold
standard in low-energy charged-particle optics. A spin-off company was
formed to market CPO,
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Heat capacity is the measurable physical quantity that specifies the
amount of heat required to change the temperature of an object or body by
a given amount and is an important quantity to establish in any
application that requires knowledge of the thermal response of a material.
It is quite usual in the development of new materials that the volume of
material available in single crystalline form is limited, and the ability
to measure small samples sensitively has particular importance for this
reason. We claim a dominant influence on the design of an ultrasensitive
heat capacity microcalorimeter that is now sold by the UK company
Cryogenic Ltd as a heat capacity option for their cryogenic measurement
systems. The microcalorimeter makes it possible to measure ultra-small
samples, particularly magnetic samples that are invisible to other
commercial probes. Research was carried out within Imperial's Physics
Department in 2003-04 to develop the instrumentation; the design was
published in 2005 after which it transferred to UK company Cryogenic Ltd.
In the past three years the approximate total sales of the heat capacity
option at Cryogenics amount to £500K, as a valuable component of a
physical properties measurement system with a total sale value in the
region of £2M [section 5, source E].
Research in the Microelectronics Group of the Cavendish Laboratory in the
area of single-electron nanoelectronics, quantum computing and spintronics
has been exploited by Hitachi, one of world's leading microelectronics
companies. Research breakthroughs made in the Cavendish have defined
Hitachi's R&D directions in quantum computing and spintronics, led to
several Hitachi product developments and influenced senior Hitachi
strategic decision makers regarding the future of computing.
Research at the University of Cambridge, Department of Physics on
sensitive techniques for measurements of magnetic and electrical
properties of materials led to the selection of Dr Michael Sutherland as
an expert witness in a series of major police investigations involving
fraudulent bomb detecting equipment. Scientific evidence Dr Sutherland
presented in court was key in securing guilty verdicts, leading to the
breakup in 2013 of several international fraud rings with combined revenue
in excess of £70 million. This criminal activity had caused significant
damage to the reputation of the UK in Iraq and elsewhere.