Nanoscience and Quantum Research

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The term “nano” refers to the metric prefix 10-9 meaning one billionth of something. “Nano” can be ascribed to any unit of measure.

Nano ScienceSo, what is nanoscience?  Nanoscience is the study of structures and materials on the scale of nanometers.

To give you an idea of how long a nanometer is, this page when printed is about 75,000 nanometers thick.

When structures are made small enough - in the nanometer size range - they can take on interesting and useful properties, but in essence, it’s studying and juggling of atoms and molecules around to see how things behave at the molecular level.

Bristol Faculty Ultra-Low-Noise LabsImage of one of the Ultra-Low-Noise Labs

With this in mind, one can imagine just how demanding the electrical power requirements are that feed “The faculty of Nanoscience and Quantum Information” (NSQI), in Bristol, UK.

For example, the NSQI has a number of ULTRA LOW NOISE LABS, which operate in the lowest possible ‘noise’ environments, e.g. no physical vibration, no sound vibration, no electromagnetic noise, no electrical noise, no harmonics, no induced noise, no radio (antenna) effects … no noise or interference of any kind!* (‘no’ being the lowest achievable level)


One of the key constraints for the NSQI was its location, i.e. in the middle of a large busy developed city, Bristol, built on a solid geology with high resistivity of mudstone/sandstone, with legacy infrastructure and noise (of every kind) that accompanies dense urban living.

Unsurprising the task of providing the external clean earthing, power earthing and fully isolatable earthing arrangements presented just one of the projects very real practical challenges.

Project features

Soil resistivity (ρ): 4,500 ohm.m
Geology: Mudstone/sandstone (no cover)
DC resistance (R): Target zero-3* ohms
Impedance (Z): Target zero-3* ohms
Despite the faculty’s less than ideal location (electrically speaking), a complete range of earthing options were considered, from horizontal and vertical buried cables, plates, reinforcing mesh, deep bore electrodes, Chem-rods, bentonite, GEM and any combination of these.


Soil resistivity studies indicated the presence of a more conductive layer at about 8m from ground level.  Therefore, a combination of deep electrodes (to penetrate this layer) plus, the building’s own reinforcing, and a separate buried ring of copper were installed around the building to help immunise from induced noise and electromagnetic effects.

This was later enhanced with an additional 200m horizontal grading electrode into softer soil nearby; and importantly, this was encased in Conducrete® before covering with tarmac.

The introduction of Conducrete® into the solution-set successfully helped NSQI achieve its electrical performance targets and enabled its research to be carried out in a noise-free environment, whilst encapsulating the copper in Conducrete® provided a built-in theft deterrent in an otherwise security vulnerable area.

Key Points:

  • A comprehensive Study of Ground conditions and equipment requirements to enable the choice of cost-effective, lowest impedance, technically feasible technologies.
  • Validation of designed solution-set performance against actual arrangements installed.
  • Innovation: successful adoption of permanent anti-theft earth enhancement Conducrete®



"Working with GreyMatters has totally changed my expectations of a professional engineering consultancy firm … for the better! Technically, they were on the money! More importantly however ... they kept me updated throughout the entire project, which was so refreshing, and therefore quickly put my mind at ease that things were being taken care of." (C. Turgis)
  • subsea 7
  • Atkins
  • Siemens
  • Hydro66
  • Western Power Distribution
  • National Grid
  • BAM Nuttall
  • Rotary Building Services
  • M&W Group
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  • Technip
  • Royal Airforce
  • PM Group
  • MOD
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  • AWE