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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/T006412/1
Title: Integrated atomic force and confocal fluorescence lifetime imaging microscope with fibre-coupled infrared detector for materials research
Principal Investigator: Martin-Fabiani, Dr I
Other Investigators:
Zanda, Professor M Petzing, Dr J Mele, Dr E
Morrison, Professor K Bowers, Dr J Roach, Professor P
Lewis, Professor M Bolognesi, Dr G Borisov, Dr P
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Materials
Organisation: Loughborough University
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 December 2019 Ends: 31 March 2023 Value (£): 817,064
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Biomaterials Complex fluids & soft solids
Condensed Matter Physics Instrumentation Eng. & Dev.
Materials Characterisation Particle Technology
Solar Technology
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
25 Jun 2019 EPSRC Strategic Equipment Interview Panel June 2019 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Our vision for the equipment is to make a step-change in the UK's engineering and physical sciences (EPS) research by establishing an area of niche capability and facilitating world leading materials science. To achieve this, we propose to provide a world leading instrument with a unique configuration for materials research as well as develop a critical mass of academic and industrial users, training the next generation of researchers in state-of-the-art techniques.

We propose to purchase two complimentary pieces of equipment to be assembled and integrated in a single instrument: a multi-purpose atomic force microscope (AFM), and a confocal fluorescence lifetime imaging microscope (CFLIM). The top half is an AFM that enables characterisation of topography, mechanical, and electrical properties at the nanoscale of a wide range of materials, from semiconductors for PV devices to scaffolds for tissue engineering. The bottom half is a high-end confocal microscope which, instead of imaging based on the emission wavelength of the fluorescent labels in the sample, can measure their fluorescence lifetime, which is heavily influenced by the molecular environment. Our instrument presents a world unique feature which is a fibre-couple infrared detector to measure the fluorescent decay of semiconductor materials. There are no other AFM-CFLIM systems in the world with detection in the infrared, therefore our equipment would be one of a kind. Our equipment will become a global reference facility thanks to its unique configuration for materials science and establish a niche of research capability.

The combination of AFM and CFLIM will shed light on key relationships between sets of properties which are not fully understood yet and will lead to the improvement and development of materials. It will benefit multiple research areas, such as: Solar technology and Energy Materials , as it would allow the correlation of crystalline structure, conductivity, and charge carrier lifetime, to maximize the efficiency of PV materials; Polymer Materials and Soft Matter Physics, where the understanding of the relationship between surface properties and the bulk chemical environment will boost the development of better and more sustainable functional coatings; and Biomaterials, as the provision of a full picture of the degradation of carriers and drug delivery will result in longer lasting implants. The instrument will also lead to new science, as the AFM cantilever has the potential for manipulation at the nanoscale. Moreover, we will provide a powerful tool for those industries that currently lack the knowledge that can be provided by the instrument, through our industrial partners that are either supporting this bid directly or partners in the EPRSC grants involved.

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.lboro.ac.uk