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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R042802/1
Title: Maximising Shared Capability of the Ultrafast Spectroscopy Laser Laboratory at Sheffield
Principal Investigator: Weinstein, Professor JA
Other Investigators:
Buckley, Dr A R Clark, Dr J Styring, Professor P
Lidzey, Professor D Wang, Professor T Chauvet, Dr A A P
Portius, Dr P Hunter, Krebs Professor of Biochemistry CN Leggett, Professor G
Craggs, Dr TD
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Chemistry
Organisation: University of Sheffield
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 October 2018 Ends: 30 March 2021 Value (£): 199,278
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Biophysics Materials Characterisation
Solar Technology
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
10 Jul 2018 EPSRC Strategic Equipment Interview Panel July 2018 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form

The interaction of light with matter is one of the most important areas in modern science. It underpins the emerging technologies of photonics materials that can be used in the communications, computing, displays and lighting devices of the future; the economic impact of this technology sector in the short-to-medium term is predicted to be very large. Interaction of light with matter is also the basis of the conversion of sunlight into energy by photosynthesis and is fundamental to life on earth. Natural photosynthesis is remarkably effective: the goal now is build artificial systems that mimic the key properties of natural photosynthetic systems so that we can, finally, harvest sunlight as an energy source and make a major contribution to mankind's long-term sustainable energy generation that is not fossil-fuel dependent and is not polluting. The tasks of artificial light-harvesting are extensive: not only do we need to construct molecular systems or materials that can capture light effectively, but they need to be able to use it to either generate energy directly (e.g. as electricity in photovoltaic cells), or to drive chemical reactions that provide 'stored energy' as a solar fuel (e.g. by providing energy for conversion of the waste-product CO2 to liquid fuels).

Ultrafast laser spectroscopy allows one to examine in many different ways what happens to molecules and materials after they absorb light, both immediately after absorption and on a timescale of years.

All research in light/matter interactions - whether it is directed at understanding nature, harnessing energy, or constructing new optical communications devices - requires the ability to measure the extremely fast changes that occur in molecules and materials immediately after light is absorbed. The initial changes take place on a timescale of femtoseconds and may involve movement of electron density, or changes in bond vibrations, which can be detected. Subsequent to this the captured energy 'flows' through the molecular assembly or material, and this movement of charge or energy from place to place - which can occur on timescales from picoseconds to microseconds - can again be visualized in detail. Finally any subsequent chemical changes that may occur on timescales as slow as milliseconds will be visualized. The result will be the ability to monitor exactly what happens in materials and molecular assemblies when the photon of light is absorbed; as the energy or an electron subsequently moves through the material and/or results in structural changes; and as the energy is finally used in various ways from luminescence to triggering chemical reactions.

The laboratory that we build is unique in the UK university system as it combines diverse aspects of ultrafast spectroscopy in a single, integrated facility which will enable the comprehensive set of measurements at a single site with a single sample. It will cover a wide range of timescales - from femtoseconds to milliseconds, which spans 11 orders of magnitude; a continuous spectrum of energies from low-energy vibrations to high-energy electronic transitions; and a wide range of detection methods that allow changes in structure and electronic properties to be probed. This will provide researchers both in Sheffield and the wider UK scientific community - with whom the facility is shared - access to state-of-the-art methods to studying light-matter interactions. This unique facility enables a wide range of science projects in areas of national importance and potentially benefit society from technological developments (such as more efficient lighting) and from cleaner, cheaper energy generation using sunlight.

Since all our methods are based on cutting-edge technology, they require highly professional scientists to ensure that the equipment works to its full potential, to help diverse groups of scientists to use it to reach out to the very edge of technology and knowledge.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Organisation Website: http://www.shef.ac.uk