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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/T024585/1
Title: Edinburgh Centre for Advanced Multi-Elemental Analysis (AMEA)
Principal Investigator: Mount, Professor A
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Sch of Chemistry
Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Scheme: Standard Research - NR1
Starts: 13 February 2020 Ends: 12 August 2021 Value (£): 400,000
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Catalysis & Applied Catalysis Chemical Biology
Chemical Synthetic Methodology Materials Characterisation
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
05 Nov 2019 EPSRC Capital Award for Core Equipment Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Our current facility has two instruments that determine the concentration of a range of elements in aqueous and organic solutions. These are (i) a recently purchased Inductively Coupled Plasma-Optical Emission Spectrometer (ICP-OES); and (ii) a 13-year-old Inductively Coupled Plasma-Single Quadrupole-Mass Spectrometer (ICP-Q-MS). These instruments have in common an "inductively coupled plasma" which acts like a very high temperature 'flame' and transforms elements in the sample solution into atoms or ions which can be detected spectroscopically (either by emission spectrum (OES) or by mass-to-charge ratio (MS)) and then quantified by comparing the detector signal to that from standard solutions.

We require new instruments because the current ICP-Q-MS cannot be repaired and so when it breaks down it will have to be decommissioned. This would mean that several of our ongoing research and consultancy projects could not be completed without resorting to expensive analysis at external organisations or commercial laboratories.

We now require more advanced instruments because our well-established user community have continually evolving research goals and we are currently working at the limits of what the existing instruments can achieve. In particular, we need to be able to make reliable measurements of elements present at extremely low concentrations (for example, 1 in a trillion to 1 in a quadrillion) in a much wider range of sample types (for example, solutions which contain relatively large amounts of salts or organic compounds). Currently, these types of solution would cause our ICP-Q-MS to become less sensitive and would also damage parts of the instrument including the detector. The new ICP-Q-MS instruments get around this problem by using argon gas to dilute the sample solutions before they enter the detector and so sensitivity loss does not occur. These new generation instruments are also much easier to operate and we will be able to train researchers to set up and run not only our existing ICP-OES but the new ICP-Q-MS. We will provide advice about which instrument would be best for determining the concentrations of the range of elements in their samples, e.g. mid-to-high level will be best on the former.

Our users also want to analyse a wider range of elements and we are currently restricted because there are interferences (detector signals that coincide with the element that we want to measure) that can't be removed either using the ICP-OES or ICP-Q-MS. For example, elements such as phosphorus and sulfur are present at extremely low levels in biological samples and sulfur is also present in the new biofuels that are being developed to replace diesel. A much more complex "interference removal" process is required before the concentrations of these elements can be accurately determined. This is achieved by using a combination of a first detector, a reaction cell and then a second detector in an ICP instrument called a "triple quadrupole" (ICP-QQQ-MS). A highly skilled operator will help researchers to identify and eliminate the signals which are coming from other components of their samples. Other elements such as vanadium (for use in new batteries) and the rare earth elements (for use in computers, cameras, cars and aircraft etc.) will also be much easier to measure as we support research into sustainable methods for recovering these important resources.

Finally, we need to make some adjustments to the rooms that will accommodate the new instruments. We want to make two smaller rooms into one larger one that will allow us to have three instruments (ICP-OES, ICP-Q-MS and ICP-QQQ-MS) in a single location, the Edinburgh Centre for Advanced Multi-Elemental Analysis (AMEA), supported by our research technician, Dr. Lorna Eades. An upgraded air conditioning system and an additional/upgraded exhaust gas extraction system will lower dust and noise levels.

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