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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/K011685/1
Title: Biocatalytic Nanolithography: Nanofabrication of High Chemical Complexity Surfaces
Principal Investigator: Wong, Dr L
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Graz University of Technology
Department: Chemistry
Organisation: University of Manchester, The
Scheme: First Grant - Revised 2009
Starts: 01 February 2013 Ends: 31 January 2015 Value (£): 100,180
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Catalysis & Applied Catalysis Catalysis & enzymology
Surfaces & Interfaces
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
26 Sep 2012 EPSRC Physical Sciences Chemistry - September 2012 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Living organisms construct a tremendous variety of structures across a range of sizes, from large bones to microscopic cell components in order to carry out their life processes. Despite this variation in size, the assembly of all of these objects ultimately relies on the generation of molecules that are nanometres in scale (a billionth of a metre, or 1/100,000th of the thickness of a human hair). These biological "building blocks", composed of compounds such as sugars and proteins are produced by enzymes, the molecular machinery of all living organisms. In order to generate these complex larger structures, living organisms have developed a range of methods for moving these enzymes to specific locations where the structures need to be formed.

The ability to manipulate and study objects on nanometre scales is called nanotechnology, and is particularly interesting since at this size range, materials display new properties that are radically different from when they exist in their bulk form. By finding ways of harnessing these unusual properties, it is expected that they can be used to create entirely new types of technologies and devices. The basic idea of being able to move enzymes to particular locations as a means of controlling the construction of objects on this scale would therefore be extremely useful if it could be applied by us to assemble highly miniaturised devices, such as electronic components or circuits.

Harnessing enzymes for this purpose is particularly appealing since they are able to conduct a wide range of chemical reactions very efficiently and generate few unwanted by-products. Furthermore, they function under mild conditions and do not rely on rare or toxic materials. In contrast, many of the current techniques used in nanotechnology are derived from the electronics industry are not only limited in the types of chemistry they can achieve due to the harshness of the conditions under which they operate, but are also very power consuming.

Accordingly, the aim of this research project is to use enzymes that are able to promote the formation and deposition of materials to generate nanometre-scale patterns on a variety of surfaces. To achieve this aim, enzymes will be used together with an instrument called a "scanning probe microscope". This instrument uses miniature electrical motors to move a very sharp tip, the "probe" of the instrument, which is only a few nanometres wide. The instrument is also able to control the movement of this probe with nanometre precision. This ability to move and position the probe with such fine control makes it possible to use it to "write" patterns on surfaces. By attaching these enzymes to the tips of these probes, the chemical reactivity of the enzymes can be directed to deposit their materials as nanoscopic patterns. This new method of writing nanopatterns will be further facilitated by developing modified versions of these enzymes so that they will perform efficiently on a scanning probe. For example, they may be modified to deposit a wider range of compounds, or to be more resistant to damage so they may be used for a longer period of time before needing to be replaced.

The materials that are produced will then be tested to determine their electrical properties so that they can then be applied for the construction of miniaturised electronic devices. Furthermore, experiments will be carried out using many scanning probes writing patterns simultaneously, which will demonstrate how this new method of nanofabrication could be used for the mass production of chemically complex miniaturised devices.
Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.man.ac.uk