‘Quietest’ building in the world opens in Bristol

On the 7th September 2009, The University of Bristol opened its Centre for Nanoscience and Quantum Information. This highly distinctive, £11 million building provides state-of-the-art specialised laboratories where vibration and acoustic noise levels are among the lowest ever achieved, despite being located in the centre of Bristol.

High-quality materials have been used throughout this unique structure, which also encompasses several unusual scientific features in its architecture:

  • The curved Portuguese limestone on the main elevation is set out in the ‘Fibonacci Series’, a sequence of numbers first created by the Italian mathematician, Leonardo Fibonacci, in 1202. The number series has fascinated and perplexed mathematicians for over 800 years.
  • The atrium dome is shaped like a ‘bucky ball’, a molecular structure (resembling a football) composed entirely of carbon atoms that has the most astonishing properties. It was named after Richard Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller.
  • Self-cleaning glass has been installed which uses nano-particles to break down dirt that is then washed away by rainwater.

The basement houses the ‘low noise’ area with a suite of ultra-low vibration nanoscience laboratories that are anchored to the rock below. 

The purpose-designed environment will house a multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary research community drawn from science, engineering and medicine across the world, encouraging innovation to thrive through stimulating interactions and the exchange of ideas.

Examples of research already on-going in the Centre include:

  • A novel material made of tiny diamonds that is set to create a new and ‘greener’ way of producing electricity. The material’s unique properties will enable the sun’s heat to be converted directly into electricity. The exceptional environment offered by the NSQI will allow experiments on this material to be undertaken at levels of precision surpassing that achieved in other laboratories around the world.
  • A cancerous cell has very different properties from a healthy cell, so by probing it with nano-tools information about its surface properties could be obtained, aiding those engaged in the fight against cancer.  Such tools may also be capable of modifying cells using a kind of nanosurgery. Collaborations are already under way with biomedical groups working on cardiac stem cells and neurons.
  • A primitive quantum computer that uses single particles of light (photons) whizzing through a silicon chip has just performed its first mathematical calculation. This is a major step forward in the quest to realise a super-powerful quantum computer.

The University’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Eric Thomas, took ownership of the NSQI building on 7th September from the builders, Wilmott Dixon Construction.

Professor Thomas said: “Creating the NSQI Centre is a statement of intent that the University of Bristol is committed to attracting and retaining many of the world’s foremost researchers in Nanoscience and Quantum Information, ensuring that the south-west of England is well-placed to benefit from the resulting growth in technology, and reinforcing the University’s position as a leader of innovation in the UK.”

The Bristol Centre for NSQI will be holding research workshops (sponsored by the Worldwide Universities Network and Institute for Advanced Studies in Bristol) this year that will consist of three topic based Interdisciplinary Workshops. The Workshops will be hosted in our brand new landmark building in Tyndall Avenue, which is an interdisciplinary hub for NS&QI activities, providing one of the best purpose built research environments anywhere in the world for this type of work. WUN member attendance will be a mix of in person and ‘virtual’ (via video conferencing).

The Workshops will be centered on the following themes (all WUN partners are invited to attend):

News article, Bristol WUN