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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/X034704/1
Title: Core Equipment to leverage world class National Crystallography Service facilities
Principal Investigator: Coles, Professor SJ
Other Investigators:
Bannister, Dr R D
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Sch of Chemistry
Organisation: University of Southampton
Scheme: Standard Research - NR1
Starts: 03 January 2023 Ends: 02 July 2024 Value (£): 429,990
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Materials Characterisation
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
02 Nov 2022 EPSRC Core Equipment Award - Panel One Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
This proposal identifies accessories to be added to the NCS state-of-the-art equipment base to provide entirely new capabilities to then be delivered widely as a service. This technique development and delivery aligns to the Core Equipment 'underpinning multi-user equipment' theme. Coupled with established routes to supporting and enabling ECRs and doctoral students, the NCS squarely addresses the objectives of this call.

The NCS is a world-renowned facility with a large user base and the first National Research Facility to be established (1981). It is ideally suited to maximising the benefits and beneficiaries of Core Equipment investment, being an advanced facility with a national reach and an established, coordinated approach to maintaining and expanding its user base. It is a world-leader with a track record of pioneering developments that have been widely adopted or incorporated into instrumentation to benefit the whole community. The NRF model provides access mechanisms, expert support, monitoring, governance and a sustainable operating model to ensure that this investment will be fully realised to its maximum potential.

The main items, a climate-controlled sample holder for electron diffraction and an energy dispersive spectrometer, are identified as accessories for an electron diffractometer recently funded via the EPSRC Strategic Equipment scheme. This will be the first dedicated instrument of its type in the world available to the academic community and will open up the new field of single crystal structure analysis of nanocrystals. Core Equipment investment therefore leverages this prominent position to pioneer entirely new capabilities based on this new technique: the ability to perform in-situ elemental analysis, access high temperatures and control the gaseous environment all while collecting atomic-resolution structural information on a nanocrystal.

Recently the NCS has developed skills and a facility to deliver the novel 'Crystal Sponge' technique. This is a joint development/impact project partnering with Merck and Rigaku, which enables acquisition of structural data on nanolitres of material or substances that don't readily crystallise. The target audience is the pharmaceutical industry but, as it becomes a new component of the NCS and with strategic partnerships already in place, the aim is to develop and deliver it to academia and grow new crystallography user communities. High Performance Liquid Chromatography will provide the basis for the NCS to deliver this technique to the academic community by enabling the handling of a much wider range of compounds and mixtures with a wide variety of levels of purity.

The final item requested is a replacement for a 20-year-old Hot Stage Microscope which aligns to the 'invest to save' theme and supports a range of advanced techniques and teaching activities.

The desire for these capabilities has been assessed via recent community consultation exercises, most notably an NCS Community Statement of Need and gathering support for a national electron diffraction facility. They have also been considered as part of the formal governance and review procedures of the NCS.

The unique position and reach of the NCS in the community will enable maximisation of the number of beneficiaries of this equipment through its core business, advanced methods and technique development work. The large established user base reaches through to PhD students and ECRs, all of whom have opportunity for skills training provided with this equipment.

In conclusion, with the ability to continue to sustain the high level of service provision, the NCS can also add significant value to this investment through well-established routes and clearly identified pathways to impact. These are not only through its established user community, but also by reaching out to many new users and to the global community, particularly via partnerships with key industry and instrument manufacturers.
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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Organisation Website: http://www.soton.ac.uk