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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/X034844/1
Title: EPSRC Capital Award for Core Equipment Award 2022/23
Principal Investigator: Heathwaite, Professor A
Other Investigators:
Stewart, Dr H J Robinson, Dr BJ
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Vice-Chancellor's Office
Organisation: Lancaster University
Scheme: Standard Research - NR1
Starts: 03 January 2023 Ends: 02 July 2024 Value (£): 485,000
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Chemical Structure Gas & Solution Phase Reactions
Physical Organic Chemistry Surfaces & Interfaces
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
R&D
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
03 Nov 2022 EPSRC Core Equipment Award - Panel Two Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The core-equipment award will be used to support the upgrade and expansion of two underpinning pieces of equipment as part of EPSRC's Invest to Save initiative. The equipment, which complements recent and substantial investment in infrastructure and staff, is i) a high throughput multimode Atomic Force Microscope (mmAFM) and ii) an electroencephalography (EEG) system.

i) mmAFM: AFM has been instrumental in the development of nanotechnology; it is a powerful, versatile technique for studying sample surfaces and thin films, providing nanoscale resolution of electrical and thermal transport, topography, nanomechanics and many other properties. AFM works by scanning the surface of the material of interest with a nanoscale or atomically sharp probe. A feedback loop between the probe and sample allows scanning or spectroscopic characterisation of the material. One of the main advantages of AFM over many other surface characterisation techniques is its ability to deliver a wide range of material, environment and characterisation parameters. Historically, one of the limiting factors for AFM is the difficulty of mapping depth-dependent material properties in a 3-dimensional (3D) scan.

The requested upgrade will overcome the 3D mapping limit. We request a significant upgrade and expansion of an existing AFM system enabling high-throughput 3D-correlated characterisation of mechanical, electrical, thermal or thermoelectric properties on conductive or insulating substrates in either controlled, ambient or liquid environments. The upgrade will be housed in the ultra-low noise environment of Lancaster's IsoLab facility and when combined with the Co-I's track records of developing and exploiting novel AFM will provide a unique, world-class facility for nanoscale materials characterisation.

ii) EEG picks up the electrical signals produced by the brain through small sensors attached to a participant's scalp. It is ideal for auditory research as it can be used with individuals with hearing devices (e.g. cochlear implants, hearing aids) and in a quiet environment, unlike Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). EEG's excellent temporal resolution is advantageous when assessing the cortical response to speech as the auditory system works at the millisecond level. The data can also be analysed to reveal from which cortical area the electrical signal originated. This spatial analysis is extremely useful in MRI pilot data due to the high costs of MRI scanning (~£250 per hour) and is made more accurate by increasing the number of channels within the EEG system.

The requested repair and upgrade will create a neuroimaging tool with a higher resolution than previously possible with the equipment to allow spatial analysis. Furthermore, the system will be made appropriate for both child and adult research to ensure the equipment is used for a wide range of research. The EEG system will be housed in Psychology's dedicated research building. In combination with the department's five auditory research labs and the BabyLab, this repaired and enhanced EEG system will provide a powerful base for paediatric auditory neuroscience.

Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.lancs.ac.uk