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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R025606/1
Title: Multiscale characterization of complex materials using a combination of atomic force microscopy and optical coherence tomography
Principal Investigator: Chen, Professor J
Other Investigators:
Jakubovics, Professor NS Wright, Professor NG Cumpson, Professor P
Vollmer, Professor W Burgess, Professor G Curtis, Professor TP
Krasnogor, Professor N
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Sch of Engineering
Organisation: Newcastle University
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 22 April 2018 Ends: 21 April 2020 Value (£): 487,050
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Biomaterials Biophysics
Synthetic biology Tissue engineering
Water Engineering
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Healthcare Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology
Water R&D
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
06 Dec 2017 EPSRC Strategic Equipment Interview Panel December 2017 (2) Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Newcastle University (NCL) has a history of multidisciplinary collaborations in investigator-led research projects and in largescale, strategic initiatives such as the EPSRC Frontier Award (Oct 2013-June 2019, which involves researchers from four different schools within Newcastle University).

The NCL capital equipment strategies are designed to ensure long-term access to equipment and computing facilities that support our diverse research needs from routine characterisation to state-of-the-art technique development. We recognise that sharing of scientific equipment between Newcastle and widely across the N8 partner universities (eight most research intensive Universities in the North of England) brings multiple benefits, including increased utilisation, greater collaboration, enhanced sustainability and a wider range of facilities available to our researchers.

We have identified the proposed equipment that are required to underpin research in ESPRC priority areas in Materials Characterisation, Functional Materials, Engineering for Life and Health, Engineering Science, Water, Synthetic Biology, Regenerative Medicine, and Nanomedicine. This will benefit multiple research groups across NCL as well as external users both academic and industrial. It supports a portfolio of existing EPSRC grants and brings new capabilities to enable new scientific discoveries. A brief summary of the equipment requested and their functions are as follows:

1). A cutting-edge AFM integrated with microfluidics, allows unprecedented possibilities for exciting applications in single-cell biology and nanoscience, thanks to the precise force control provided by the AFM and the microfluidics capabilities. The capability of high resolution and high accuracy imaging and mechanical measurements supports a range of projects in chemistry and at its interfaces with biology, physics and chemical engineering. It is complemented by the existing state-of-art high resolution surface chemistry analysis techniques available at Newcastle.

2). An optical coherence tomography (OCT) uses infrared light to provide surface profiles and subsurface structures, delivering higher resolution and faster images than ultrasound inspection. When used together with the custom built air-pulse system, OCT also enables characterisation of elastic properties of materials such as biofilms and soft tissues.

Items AFM and OCT together with the existing facilities at Newcastle permit mapping of 3D geometry and mechanical characterisation from sub-nanometer to millimetre scale. This asset enables the study of physical and dynamical properties of soft matter, facilitating investigations of disease progression at subcellular, cellular and tissue levels which will allow formulation of effective diseases diagnosis and treatment strategies. The multiscale quantitative measurement obtained by this asset can also provide datasets needed for constructing predictive models in healthcare and water engineering. As a consequence, it can underpin a range of academic and industry-focussed projects in marine biofilms, biological wastewater treatment, biofilm infections, tissue engineering, cancer research and many other healthcare related applications.

Such multiscale physical and mechanical characterisation capability can be further reinforced by the advanced surface chemistry analysis facilities hosted at Newcastle, which will give rise to world-leading research in materials characterisation. It will enhance the UK as a world leader in a wide range of academic research areas, including engineering, materials, physics, chemistry, biology and medicine.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
Sectors submitted by the Researcher
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Project URL:  
Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.ncl.ac.uk