Materials Research Facility


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Updates 30th June 2023:


  • As part of FaSCiNATe at the MRF, the following pieces of scientific equipment are now available: the in-situ heating stage and optics upgrades for the X-ray Diffractometer (XRD); the in-situ micro-mechanical test stage for the SEM or PFIB (for testing at room temperature up to 1000 °C); and we are open for pilot projects using the high-resolution vacuum Differential Scanning Calorimeter (DSC) on non-radioactive samples.


  • As well as the MRF's Plasma Focused Ion Beam (PFIB), upgrades to the existing Gallium Focused Ion Beam (GaFIB) are also available. The GaFIB upgrades include an Electron Back Scatter Diffraction (EBSD) detector, for site-specific sample preparation as well as monitoring of sample position during preparation, plus a cryo-stage enabling low-temperature milling to prevent artefacts during sample preparation. The cryo-stage includes a vacuum-transfer system for protective transfer of air-sensitive samples to other facilities. The PFIB is being commissioned for use with radioactive samples and was available as such for call 13 and the Larger Projects Competition, and the GaFIB upgrades were ready for use with radioactive samples in these calls. 



Project lead: Dr. Steven Van Boxel
The UKAEA’s Materials Research Facility (MRF Brochure) at Culham in Oxfordshire specialises in processing and analysing radioactive materials, to support research in fission, fusion and particle accelerator design. We can take material that is far too radioactive for a university laboratory but does not need to be handled at a nuclear licensed site. The MRF has been funded by EPSRC, through the NNUF and Henry Royce Institute initiatives, as well directly by Government.



Researcher at computer

Radioactive sample preparation using FIB


MRF hot cell wall with operator

Hot cell wall with operator using manipulator arms


Operator using glove box at MRF

Operator and manipulator arms as seen from inside the hot cell


The materials inside both fission and fusion reactors face a unique combination of high temperatures and fast-moving neutrons. Developing materials that can survive for long periods in these conditions is therefore a high priority for the nuclear industry. Data from MRF helps researchers understand the properties of materials for:

•    Existing nuclear power stations and designs for future, more efficient power stations
•    Fusion reactors
•    Particle accelerators – for targets and other components that operate in an extreme environment.

In MRF we can cut and prepare samples in hot cells, using remote handling systems, up to TBq levels (Cobalt-60 equivalent). The resulting smaller specimens, which have much reduced radiation levels, can then be analysed on site in shielded enclosures (up to GBq levels) or at university laboratories. MRF uses advanced scientific methods and specialist equipment to perform microstructural analysis, mechanical testing and thermo-physical characterisation, and has a range of equipment to prepare samples for these tests. MRF also has an experimental area for tritium, beryllium and other hazardous materials.



Scientific equipment can be operated remotely from the MRF control room by users after training. The training will allow the user to operate the equipment safely and focus on the science that needs to be done, with support available from in-house experts. 

For more information on the equipment and the MRF see or use the contact form on the MRF website.

In the 2022/23 year, there were 1297 user days at the MRF.



The MRF is open for research, within appropriate COVID-19 control measures. Within those controls we are able to accommodate external users, either in person or by MRF scientists delivering experiments on behalf of externals. In the first instance please do reach out to the MRF team to discuss requirements.



Text and images © UKAEA.