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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/X018024/1
Title: New horizons in Electrostatic Force Microscopy
Principal Investigator: Abayzeed, Dr S
Other Investigators:
Wright, Dr AJ
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Dr T Mendonca
Project Partners:
Department: Faculty of Engineering
Organisation: University of Nottingham
Scheme: Standard Research - NR1
Starts: 01 October 2022 Ends: 31 May 2024 Value (£): 202,149
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Instrumentation Eng. & Dev.
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
21 Jun 2022 New Horizons 2021 Full Proposal Panel Announced
23 Jun 2022 New Horizons Electronic and Electical Engineering Panel June 2022 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The fight against life-threatening diseases such as cancer requires an in-depth understanding of the functions of living systems at the molecular and cellular levels. Therefore the demand to create capabilities for exploring various biochemical and biophysical characteristics of these microscopic living environments is high. One important but often over-looked property of biological systems is electrostatic charge, which influences biochemical reactions as well as the ways in which cells divide, migrate and adhere to extracellular environments. There are many floors in the existing techniques used to characterize electrostatic charge, such as the requirement to drag a tip across the surface of the sample during measurement, limiting their application to delicate 3D biological samples. The Biomedical Research community has made a relatively recent shift from studying cell samples in 2D to growing 3D cell cultures that have been shown to much better replicate the in vivo environment making them better models for understanding disease. There is a need for the Engineering and Physical Sciences community to catch-up and provide suitable tools for sensing and imaging these much more complex 3D cellular environments.

The research efforts in microscopy are directed towards building new ways to image, not just the interactions of light with the sample but to expose insights into chemical, mechanical and electrical nature of these micro worlds. This proposal falls within this category aiming to build a new capability for biologists to detect extremely small quantities of electrostatic charge and force at the subcellular domains in complex 3D environment. Here we use optical trapping - a microscopy tool that offers highly sensitive force transduction - combined with bespoke electrochemical configurations that allows precise manipulation of electric field across the sample under the investigation. This project is high risk, but if successful, it promises to deliver a completely brand new microscopy capability for mapping the changing electrostatic charge in 3D around delicate live biological samples using a non-contact approach, allowing Biomedical researchers to test novel hypothesis in a way that is currently not available.

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Organisation Website: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk