Knowing what something is made from is the foundation of understanding of what something is. It can indicate its intended purpose and tell you if it has been made from the correct material, and whether it has been changed in some way such as becoming contaminated or corroded over time. This is important for many types of investigation in fields as diverse as forensic science, failure analysis and quality assurance, material science and archaeology.

Our laboratories in Bedfordshire and Oxfordshire are well equipped to address these sorts of problems by considering the structure and chemical composition of an object over a range of scales. The materials we have examined include metal alloys, semiconductors, glasses, ceramics, bone, teeth, and explosives.

Our research

Our current research projects include: 

  • Advanced X-ray imaging,
  • Materials identification and classification,
  • Novel techniques for monitoring low-level radiation,
  • Ballistic materials,
  • Biogenic calcifications,
  • Historic materials,
  • Materials in extreme environments,
  • Characterisation of additively manufactured materials.

Our facilities and techniques

We have an extensive range of facilities available to support research, as well as to facilitate consultancy and testing services, which include:


  • Photogrammetry and laser scanning,
  • Optical and scanning electron microscopes,
  • Radiography and CT.

Elemental analysis

  • Energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDX),
  • X-ray fluorescence (XRF) – laboratory and field,
  • Inductively coupled plasma – mass spectrometry (ICP – MS).

Compound / chemical / microstructural analysis

  • X-ray diffraction (XRD),
  • Fourier transform infra-red spectroscopy (FTIR),
  • Raman spectroscopy,
  • Gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS),
  • Electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD).