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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/X040992/1
Title: Enabling precision engineering of complex chemical products for high value technology sectors.
Principal Investigator: Brydson, Professor RMD
Other Investigators:
Hondow, Dr N Collins, Dr SM Muench, Dr SP
Brown, Professor AP Clark, Dr L
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Tescan UK Ltd
Department: Chemical and Process Engineering
Organisation: University of Leeds
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 March 2024 Ends: 29 February 2028 Value (£): 1,584,600
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Analytical Science Complex fluids & soft solids
Materials Characterisation
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
26 Mar 2023 EPSRC RI Strategic Equipment Interview Panel March 2023 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form

Precision engineering of complex chemical products used in high-value technology sectors, e.g. pharmaceutical, healthcare and fine-chemical products as well as emergent energy materials, can help achieve superior functionality, control of degradation, and the discovery of novel physical and chemical product properties. Such complex chemical products and devices often incorporate low atomic number ions and molecules as building blocks which, due to their sensitivity to the electron or ion beam, requires a step change in nanoscale chemical and structural imaging, if we are to characterize their detailed microstructure. This grant will advance and enable quantitative, analytical spectroscopy and imaging of these beam-sensitive materials in both their native state and during in-situ dynamic processes at nanometre spatial resolution using a unique set of electron and focused ion-beam microscopy (EM/FIB) instrumentation at Leeds and also externally. This will allow us to identify and create an understanding of unseen performance-limiting structures, defects and interfaces within the soft matter components in such products and devices.

In the initial phase of the grant, we will use a combination of three synergistic Research Strategies to achieve our goal for the reliable and accurate characterisation of complex chemical products and devices. These are: (i) the optimisation of sample preparation methodologies; (ii) the development of new electron/ion beam scanning/ shaping strategies; and (iii) the harnessing of new detector technologies for scanning EM/FIB. A set of work packages (WPs) will enable reliable, calibrated methodologies to be developed for the study of the: Structure (WP1), Chemistry (WP2) and Dynamics (WP3) of beam sensitive materials at atomic and molecular spatial resolution in both two and three dimensions, within multiphase environments and with a radical improvement in state-of-the-art chemical sensitivity, whilst simultaneously minimizing beam-induced damage. Collaborations will include: direct partnerships with instrument manufacturers, use of National facilities and secondments to leading international groups with complementary capabilities and expertise, so enabling key advances in nanoscale analytical science for complex chemical products.

In the second phase of the grant, these interlinked approaches will, with external user access and direct industrial involvement, be applied to a range of currently unmet challenges in model product/process systems to benchmark potential applications and develop nanoscale models of performance (WP4). Example systems include: (a) the mapping of phase distributions and analysis of interfacial and defect structures in model pharmaceutical formulations, metal-organic framework materials and organic and hybrid optoelectronics; (b) the identification of solution phase precursors, pre-nucleation clusters and hydrates during inorganic/organic crystallization processes; (c) the self-assembly/disassembly of polymeric micelles, micro-gel particles and core-shell particles for drug delivery.

In the final workpackage of the grant (WP5), the instrumentation, methods, protocols and expertise so developed will be offered free-at-point-of-use to external academic users and be made available to wider industry to enhance research understanding and impact associated with their specific chemical product systems.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.leeds.ac.uk