Centre for Nanoscience and Quantum Information

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Centre for Nanoscience and Quantum Information
@ The University of Bristol
NSQI logo
Outside the Centre for Nanoscience and Quantum Information, Bristol University
Established 7 September 2009 (2009-09-07)
Research type
  • Basic
  • Applied
  • Unclassified
Field of research
Director Prof. Meryn Miles, FRS
    • Science
    • Engineering
  • Medicine & Veterinary Science
  • Medicine and Dentistry
Staff 6
Location Bristol, England, UK
51°27′32″N 02°36′6″W / 51.45889°N 2.60167°W / 51.45889; -2.60167Coordinates: 51°27′32″N 02°36′6″W / 51.45889°N 2.60167°W / 51.45889; -2.60167
Nickname NSQI
Operating agency
University of Bristol
Website www.bristol.ac.uk/nsqi-centre/

The Centre for Nanoscience and Quantum Information (informally, NSQI) is a research centre within the University of Bristol. Built as an intra-university facility, the Centre is open to any University researcher working in the nanoscience and quantum information fields. The mission of the Centre is to support world-leading research, as well as provide an interdisciplinary environment that will generate novel and innovative projects that might never have happened in a traditionally divided research establishment. Set in motion by the current Director in 2002 and officially opened in 2009,[2] the Centre was designed to provide a unique ultra-low-vibration research space, making the labs some of the quietest in the world.[3][4]

The Building[edit]

Building layout[edit]

The building is split across four floors:[5]

  • Basement: is entirely for the most sensitive experimental work, with seven low noise labs, two ultra-low noise labs, an anechoic chamber and a class 1000 cleanroom, as well as three prep labs.
  • Ground Floor: has two Quantum Information labs (with less stringent noise requirements), staff offices, a seminar room and large, bright, open foyer and coffee area.
  • First Floor: has an additional seminar room and the rest of the floor is given over to hot desk and office space for the researchers who make the Centre for NSQI their home.
  • Second Floor: is almost entirely dedicated to chemical and biological labs ("Wet labs"); a main interdisciplinary communal lab, with additional tissue culture, bacterial culture and light micrsocopy rooms. A second Class 1000 cleanroom is available on this floor for clean sample preparation. This floor also houses the student office of the Bristol Centre for Functional Nanomaterials[6] ("BCFN"), a Doctoral Training Centre jointly held by the Schools of Physics and Chemistry.
  • Third Floor: location of the main switch room and plant room for all the Centre services (water tanks, boilers, air handling units etc.).

Building design features[edit]

The building was designed by Percy Thomas of Capita Architecture,[7] in 2004 and built by Willmott Dixon.[8] The primary requirement for the building was that it be a low-noise research environment, stable enough to allow researchers to take measurements at subnanometre and subnanoNewton resolution, despite other activities going on around them.[9] The criteria set for the research space exceeded any standard curve (VC curves) and required significant design and engineering solutions.

"The new Bristol Centre will serve as a commendable and viable construct for interdisciplinary research; its ultimate goal is to move to new shores and new territories."

Nobel laureate Heinrich Rohrer, 2010, at the Scientific Opeining of the Centre.

Low vibrations[edit]

The primary source of noise for researchers at the nanoscale is mechanical vibration. Activities within a building generate noise that can travel through the structure and vibrations created outside (such as from road traffic) can travel through the ground and enter the building. A variety of methods were employed to reduce vibration generation, travel and entry into the lab space:

  • The main structure of the building is massive,[10] 2.0 m-thick concrete foundations and 0.5 m-thick concrete floors.
  • All plant machinery is removed to the third floor, as far from the lab space as possible.
  • All services and plant machinery is suspended on springs, rubber pads or damper pads to reduce coupling between the mechanism and the building.
  • All services are balanced to reduce turbulence within pipe and ductwork.
  • All corridors are floating, separate from the main structure, stopping vibrations crossing the floor and major foot traffic from affecting the building.
  • The lift shaft is decoupled from the building structure.
  • The building is decoupled from the building next door.
  • All services pass through a flexible hose coupling before entering the low noise labs.
  • All Low noise labs have a seven tonne concrete isolation block set on damper pads, within the ground slab. This is the experimental space, with lower vibrations than the surrounding floor and allowing experiments to continue while the researcher walks around within the lab.[11]
  • Both ultra-low noise labs have either a 23-tonne or 27-tonne concrete isolation block supported by pneumatic rams. The block is T-shaped in cross-section, to keep the centre of gravity lower (reducing wobble within the block). The block is surrounded by a floating floor, so that researchers can use the room while experiments are taking place.[12]
  • To further reduce the noise in the ultra-low noise labs, control equipment can be removed from the room and installed in the neighbouring control room. The control room has its own isolation block and is heavily soundproofed. Conduits allow cables to run between the labs, allowing the experiment to be completely run from the control room.


Acoustic noise within the building is countered through several measures. Most importantly, experimental rooms are far from the busy University precinct, underground and in an area that is not used for teaching, or as a thoroughfare. The thickness of the floor ensures that little sound penetrates across and the walls between labs and doors of the labs are soundproof. The plant machinery is removed as far from the labs as possible, on the top floor, and the services are tuned as precisely as possible to reduce any sounds from the water supply, chilled water system or air vents.

Low electrical noise[edit]

Many of the experiments planned for the Centre involve recording tiny electrical currents (as low as a few picoAmps) so electrical noise is seen as a serious problem. Each basement research lab is a full Faraday cage, all service pipework changes to plastic before entering the lab and no Category 5 cable (cat5e) is used in data network, optical fibre is used instead. All labs are also supplied with an independent earth and 'clean' power supply, the mains having been filtered by a 1:1 transformer.

Interdisciplinary space[edit]

In addition to providing state-of-the-art low noise spaces, the building is also designed to encourage collaboration and interdisciplinary research. This includes plenty of meeting spaces and a light & spacious foyer/coffee area.

Centre Organisation[edit]


  • Director – Professor Mervyn Miles
  • Deputy Director – Professor Hua-Xin Peng

Previous Directors include Professor Daniel Robert, Professor Steve Wiggins and Professor Robert Evans.

Management Committee[edit]

The management committee provides advice and direction on the management of the Centre and assesses the project applications for researchers who wish to use the Centre. Current members are: Mervyn Miles (Physics; Director of NSQI); H.X.Peng (Aero-engineering; Deputy Director); Fred Hale (Centre Manager); Charl Faul (Chemistry; Centre User & BCFN co-ordinator); Henkjan Gersen (Physics; Centre User & BCFN co-ordinator); George Banting (Biochemistry); Margaret Saunders (BIRCH, Medical Biophysics; Centre User); and Jeremy O'Brien (Electrical & Electronic Engineering (EEE) and Physics; Centre User).

Research Strategy Group[edit]

This group steers the direction of Nanoscience and Quantum information research support across the University of Bristol. This is a University-wide community and is not restricted to research and researchers working in the building. Current members are: Mervyn Miles, John Rarity (EEE; Centre User); Daniel Robert (Biological Sciences; Centre User); Annela Seddon (BCFN & Physics; Centre User); Ruth Oulton (Physics and EEE; Centre User); Tannie Liverpool (Mathematics); Mark Dillingham (Biochemistry); Dek Woolfson (Chemistry and Biochemistry); and Siyuan Yu (EEE; Centre User).[13]

Centre Staff[edit]

  • Centre Manager – Fred Hale
  • Administrative assistant – Alex Martin
  • Lab Managers
    • Low Noise Labs – Peter Dunton
    • Wet lab – Stuart Bellamy


  1. ^ "UCLA's CNSI, British nanoscience center sign agreement to further research collaborations". California NanoSystems Institute, UCLA. Retrieved 7 November 2011. 
  2. ^ "Official opening of the Centre for Nanoscience & Quantum Information". University of Bristol. Retrieved 7 November 2011. 
  3. ^ "'Quietest building in the world' officially opens". Capita Symonds. Retrieved 8 November 2011. 
  4. ^ "Visiting the quietest building in the world". Institute of Physics. Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
  5. ^ "Facilities at the Centre for Nanoscience & Quantum Information". NSQI, University of Bristol. Retrieved 3 November 2011. 
  6. ^ "Bristol Centre for Functional Nanomaterials". BCFN, University of Bristol. Archived from the original on 17 December 2010. Retrieved 3 November 2011. 
  7. ^ "Capita Architecture". Capita Architecturel. Retrieved 7 November 2011. 
  8. ^ "Higher Education Profile" (PDF). Willmott Dixon. p. 11. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 April 2011. Retrieved 7 November 2011. 
  9. ^ Tickle, Louise (5 January 2010). "Delicate science". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 7 November 2011. 
  10. ^ "New centre for Nano-science and Quantum Information, University of Bristol". Natural Architecture. Retrieved 7 November 2011. 
  11. ^ "Low noise lab facilities at the Centre for Nanoscience & Quantum Information". NSQI, University of Bristol. Retrieved 3 November 2011. 
  12. ^ "Ultra low noise lab facilities at the Centre for Nanoscience & Quantum Information". NSQI, University of Bristol. Retrieved 3 November 2011. 
  13. ^ "Management structure at the Centre for Nanoscience & Quantum Information". NSQI, University of Bristol. Archived from the original on 30 July 2012. Retrieved 3 November 2011.