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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/S004505/1
Title: A novel coating technology based upon polyatomic ions from plasma
Principal Investigator: Short, Professor RD
Other Investigators:
Evans, Dr N H Murphy, Dr S Douglas, Dr T
Pickup, Professor R Robinson, Dr BJ Andrieux, Dr FPL
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Blackpool Teaching Hosp NHS Fdn Trust Kratos Analytical Ltd Nuclear Decomissioning Authority
Department: Chemistry
Organisation: Lancaster University
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 February 2019 Ends: 31 August 2022 Value (£): 604,590
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Energy - Nuclear Materials Synthesis & Growth
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology Energy
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
12 Sep 2018 EPSRC Physical Sciences - September 2018 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Plasma polymerisation is widely used in manufacturing and we would hope to extend the range of products that are plasma coated. We have focused on coatings in healthcare applications and in chemical sensing. We are all likely to be beneficiaries from the development of effective, safe and low-cost technologies that address the rise in antimicrobial resistance (AMR); microbes that develop resistance to antibiotics. As identified by Lord Jim O'Neil in his seminal report TACKLING DRUG-RESISTANT INFECTIONS GLOBALLY, 2016, AMR presents perhaps the greatest long-term threat to human health: it is estimated that up to 10 million people per year will die from AMR by 2050, without significant new interventions. The sensing application we have chosen is radioactive waste, where enhanced sensing increases safety and protects the environment and the public.

To achieve rapid impact, we will actively accelerate utilisation and translation of this plasma technology, by conducting in parallel to the main project, 3 demonstrator projects. These are designed to complete technology development up to TRL 4 and to introduce the technology to potential end users in the nuclear safety industry and the healthcare sector. The collaboration with Kratos Analytical will provide a platform for a much broader advertisement of the technology.

We will conduct a proof-of-concept demonstrator project, applying plasma amine (TREN) coatings to the surface of a quartz crystal microbalance in order to detect the pertechnetate anion (a fission product of 235U). Robust and reliable sensing in bore holes as well as in-line process monitoring will enhance the nuclear industry's ability to demonstrate compliance with statutory requirements and provide early warning of potential leak detection. We anticipate that based upon the novel monomers synthesised by Dr Nick Evans we can fabricate on-line sensors with greater specificity and sensitivity to currently employed methods. The plasma coatings could also be applied to magnetic beads which would offer a novel method for pertechnetate remediation from waste streams. Further spin-offs include applications in medical sensing, where amine surfaces are used to immobilise molecules on to surfaces.

In two further demonstrator projects, we will test novel plasma anti-microbial surfaces against pathogens that are most frequently associated with medical devices and wound colonisation. The PhD student will explore with Dr Achyat Guleri (a Consultant Microbiologist and Clinical Director at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals) a particularly interesting application in voice prosthesis, where the silicone is very readily colonised by Candida. We see a market for these surfaces (applied as dressings) in the treatment of wounds. Burn wounds, for example, are particularly prone to bacterial colonisation. (Dressings containing Ag have been used for about two decades, but recently questions about Ag toxicity to mammalian cells and overall benefit from the use of Ag have arisen.) In this context, nitric-oxide (NO) release surfaces could provide a less toxic and yet equally effective approach. Diabetic wounds (ca. 200-300,000 pa in the UK) provide an alternative target, where infection is a common reason for wounds failing to heal. A further target is hospital acquired infections which cost the NHS ca. £1Bn pa and approximately 24% of these are at the surgical site.

Key Findings
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