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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R029229/1
Title: From Nanoscale Structure to Nanoscale Function (NS2NF)
Principal Investigator: Briggs, Professor GAD
Other Investigators:
Anderson, Professor HL Benjamin, Professor SC Bhaskaran, Professor H
Osborne, Dr M A Porfyrakis, Professor K Warner, Professor JH
Laird, Dr EA Bogani, Professor L Mol, Dr JA
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Amadeus Capital Partners Limited Amazon.co.uk Ltd Complutense University of Madrid
Graphcore Heriot-Watt University Lancaster University
Max Planck Institutes (Grouped) MV Portfolios Inc Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Oxford Nanopore Technologies Private Address University of Cambridge
University of Maryland University of Oregon University of Perugia
University of Warwick University of Waterloo (Canada) Vienna University of Technology
VTT Washington University in St Louis
Department: Materials
Organisation: University of Oxford
Scheme: Platform Grants
Starts: 01 August 2018 Ends: 31 July 2023 Value (£): 1,530,594
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Magnetism/Magnetic Phenomena Materials Characterisation
Materials Synthesis & Growth Quantum Optics & Information
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
R&D
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
23 Jan 2018 Platform Grant Interviews - 23 and 24 January 2018 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
As we gain ever-greater control of materials on a very small scale, so a new world of possibilities opens up to be studied for their scientific interest and harnessed for their technological benefits. In science and technology nano often denotes tiny things, with dimensions measured in billionths of metres. At this scale structures have to be understood in terms of the positions of individual atoms and the chemical bonds between them. The flow of electricity can behave like waves, with the effects adding or subtracting like ripples on the surface of a pond into which two stones have been dropped a small distance apart. Electrons can behave like tiny magnets, and could provide very accurate timekeeping in a smartphone. Carbon nanotubes can vibrate like guitar strings, and just as the pitch of a note can be changed by a finger, so they can be sensitive to the touch of a single molecule. In all these effects, we need to understand how the function on the nanoscale relates to the structure on the nanoscale.

This requires a comprehensive combination of scientific skills and methods. First, we have to be able to make the materials which we shall use. This is the realm of chemistry, but it also involves growth of new carbon materials such as graphene and single-walled carbon nanotubes. Second, we need to fabricate the tiny devices which we shall measure. Most commonly we use a beam of electrons to pattern the structures which we need, though there are plenty of other methods which we use as well. Third, we need to see what we have made, and know whether it corresponds to what we intended. For this we again use beams of electrons, but now in microscopes that can image how individual atoms are arranged. Fourth, we need to measure how what we have made functions, for example how electricity flows through it or how it can be made to vibrate. A significant new development in our laboratory is the use of machine learning for choosing what to measure next. We have set ourselves the goal that within five years the machine will decide what the next experiment should be to the standard of a second-year graduate student.

The Platform Grant renewal 'From Nanoscale Structure to Nanoscale Function' will provide underpinning support for a remarkable team of researchers who bring together exactly the skills set which is needed for this kind of research. It builds on the success of the current Platform Grant 'Molecular Quantum Devices'. This grant has given crucial support to the team and to the development of their careers. The combination of skills, and the commitment to working towards shared goals, has empowered the team to make progress which would not have been possible otherwise. For example, our team's broad range of complementary skills were vital in allowing us to develop a method, now patented, for making nanogaps in graphene. This led to reproducible and stable methods of making molecular quantum devices, the core subject of that grant. The renewal of the Platform Grant will underpin other topics that also build on achievements of the current grant, and which require a similar set of skills to determine how function on the nanoscale depends on structure on the nanoscale.

You can get a flavour of the research to be undertaken by the questions which motivate the researchers to be supported by the grant. Here is a selection. Can we extend quantum control to bigger things? Can molecular scale magnets be controlled by a current? How do molecules conduct electricity? How can we pass information between light and microwaves? How can we measure a thousand quantum devices in a single experiment? Are the atoms in our devices where we want them? Can computers decide what to measure next? As we make progress in questions like these, so we shall better understand how structure on the nanoscale gives rise to function on the nanoscale. And that understanding will in turn provide the basis for new discoveries and new technologies.
Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.ox.ac.uk