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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/S021434/1
Title: High resolution, cryogenic analytical and transfer scanning electron microscope (HR-CAT-SEM)
Principal Investigator: Khlobystov, Professor A
Other Investigators:
Parmenter, Dr C D J Rawson, Dr FJ Amabilino, Professor D
Howdle, Professor S Grant, Professor DM Harding, Professor SE
Vandeginste, Dr V M C Alexander, Professor C Wright, Dr AJ
Brown, Professor PD Snape, Professor CE Arkill, Dr KP
Scurr, Dr D J
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Oxford Instruments Ltd Quorum Technologies
Department: Sch of Chemistry
Organisation: University of Nottingham
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 April 2019 Ends: 31 March 2024 Value (£): 1,564,542
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Analytical Science Biomaterials
Carbon Capture & Storage Complex fluids & soft solids
Energy Storage Materials Characterisation
Materials Processing
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
22 Nov 2018 EPSRC Strategic Equipment Interview Panel November 2018 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Natural and man-made molecular materials are at the heart of many modern day technologies, from energy conversion and storage devices, to propulsion systems to construction materials, whilst being also at the core of everyday life, from foodstuffs, healthcare products and cosmetics, to electronic devices and textiles. Thanks to recent advances in the analytical sciences, now we know what molecules are present within "molecular materials", however, due to the fact that most molecular materials (including living matter) exhibit highly complex, heterogeneous compositions, with a lack of long-range order, combined with highly dynamic/metastable properties, often we have only a vague idea where these molecules are located. Considering that all the important functional properties of materials, including electronic, photonic, magnetic, catalytic gas-sorption and transport, emerge at the nanoscale, and the biological function of living cells relies on the molecular machinery operating at the nanoscale, it is critically important to develop new methodologies capable of providing full structural information on any material of any complexity, from single molecule to nanoscale supramolecular assembly to 3D microscale architectures.

Currently, amongst the analytical techniques, electron microscopy (EM) is in a unique position to offer morphological information content, in 3D, across the pico-, nano- and micro-length scales. However, in the context of molecular materials, EM methodologies suffer from two significant drawbacks, related to the invasive nature of the electron beam that can rapidly damage delicate molecules within materials, whilst they are imaged. Also, EM operates in vacuum conditions, being incompatible with most hydrated materials, including biological samples, the native structures of which are simply lost when water is removed. The proposed new HR-CAT-SEM platform - comprising a uniquely configured High Resolution, Cryogenic Analytical and Transfer Scanning Electron Microscope, is designed to solve these challenges, through the use of low energy electron beams (down to 1keV), whilst delivering 1.6nm of spatial resolution necessary for effective nanoscale analyses (enabled by the use of a field emission gun (FEG), combined with modern high contrast, multi-mode detectors); and by stabilising the material, either thermally or through hydrated sample vitrification, and sectioning using a focused ion beam (FIB), all under cryogenic conditions, thereby enabling the investigation of previously intractable materials science problems, through 3D multiscale analysis.

Importantly, the cryo-FIB sectioning and cryo-transfer protocols developed at Nottingham, to be implemented within the HR-CAT-SEM, will allow a journey across the length scales; starting from the microscale, enabled by optical microscopy and scanning electron microscopy (SEM), to the nanoscale (FEG-SEM), and picoscale (transfer to high resolution transmission electron microscopy HR-TEM), delivering the most complete structural understanding of complex molecular materials to date. In addition, the unique cryo-transfer capability of the HR-CAT-SEM will open up new horizons in correlative analysis, where structural information obtained by EM methods will be complemented by secondary ion mass spectrometry (OrbiSIMS) and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), providing correlated information on chemical molecular composition and molecular bonding, from the same volume of material. A project of such scale and ambition is made possible due to the rich expertise in this area available at Nottingham, and the uniquely configured Nanoscale & Microscale Research Centre laboratories www.nottingham.ac.uk/nmrc, where the HR-CAT-SEM will be housed, that already hosts all the instruments necessary for correlative analysis (HRTEM, XPS, OrbiSIMS), under one roof, along with the necessary sample handling infrastructure, required for full, effective implementation of this project.
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Organisation Website: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk