SMALL ITEMS OF RESEARCH EQUIPMENT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF LIVERPOOL

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Chemistry

Abstract

The focus for this application is to support the research activity of more than 20 young early career research workers (ECRs) in the four cross-disciplinary fields of Energy, Catalysis, Manufacturing Technologies and Healthcare Technologies. These research themes were chosen for investment in new research staff on the basis of the University's existing cognate research strengths, the challenges that exist in these areas in terms of meeting future societal needs, their potential for world class research and for addressing issues of future national importance. Each of these research themes have active research programmes related to EPSRC research areas. The funds will support small items of equipment under £10k for research programmes led by these ECRs, enhacing the research capabilities of these groups, enabling new strands of research and collaborations with other research groups both at Liverpool and in the wider UK academic community.

Areas that will be supported within these themes include:

Energy - problems in renewable energy, reduction in energy demand and nuclear power, advances in new energy materials, including batteries and photovoltaics, environmental aspects of nuclear energy and materials modelling.

Catalysis -fundamentals of catalytic and photocatalytic materials and processes, development of new materials and their application, particularly to advanced manufacturing for specific materials, development of cleaner, safer and cheaper routes to existing technologies and the development of new catalysts for bio-fuels and other energy applications.

Manufacturing Technologies - developing technologies for manufacturing industries by supporting new technology platforms that have broad application in high value manufacturing, developing precision control and data processing capability from strengths in engineering to both establish the platform itself and demonstrate how it can be applied to problems of industrial importance.

Healthcare Technologies - spporting biomedical engineering as a fast growing area of research by equipping cross-disciplinary collaborations in the physical and life sciences, engineering and medicine to examine soft and hard tissue biomechanics, biomaterials and image processing, leading to development of new medical devices.

Planned Impact

The fundamental impact of this small equipment grant will be to develop the research programmes of early stage researchers, PhD students and PDRAs in four areas of strength and strategic importance to the University and which align strongly with EPSRC priorities. These are Energy, Catalysis, Manufacturing Technologies and Healthcare Technologies. Investment in the research infrastructure will be used to foster collaboration and cross-disciplinary projects, helping to develop future research leaders in research areas of strategic importance to the UK.
Energy is a major strength of the University. Following the success of the JOULE project the University has invested £10m to form the Stephenson Institute for Renewable Energy. There are also major strengths in other departments (e.g. Chemistry, Materials, Engineering, Electrical and Electronic Engineering) addressing energy related problems. This grant application will be used to provide early stage researchers with the apparatus that they need to establish their programmes of research. Several laboratories are investigating the fundamentals of materials for use in renewable energy applications or are developing and testing the properties new energy storage materials. These programmes will support the development of renewable energy technologies with clear societal and economic benefit as the new technologies that society needs enter production. Other energy applications include understanding transport problems in soils, important to understanding the environmental impact of the widely anticipated expansion nuclear power and contributing to safe clean energy.
Catalysis research builds upon the University's strengths in chemistry and materials and this grant will support the development of catalytic platforms for energy applications and the life sciences. It generates benefits from their use in industrial processes, both economically and environmentally, and from the products produced. For example, the use of biocatalsts to convert biomass into useful platform chemicals and fuels will transform waste biomass into valuable raw renewable raw materials. Photocatalytic processes provide routes to directly use solar energy in industrial processes reducing the use of energy in industrial processes and potentially consuming CO2.
Manufacturing technologies are of great significance to the economy, both through the value they generate but also the new products that they enable. The advances in cationic inorganic materials supported by this grant will lead to anion ion exchange technologies which have direct cost-reduction applications in industrial processes, but also new families of catalysts (with the impacts in the preceding paragraph). Low temperature plasma technology will result in cleaner and lower cost water treatment. Advances in laser technology will result in very significantly lower cost fabrication of precisely engineered devices. Consumers will benefit from the new products that will be developed using advances in materials. For example, the use of porous nanomaterials as carriers for insoluble pharmaceuticals will lead to improved healthcare and significant added value in the pharmaceutical sector; electrochemical gels will lead to new structured products for the industrial and consumer sector.
Healthcare technologies are of direct benefit through improved non-invasive imaging for diagnostic purposes and to support advances in biomedical research. This will benefit patients through improved clinical procedures and more precisely targeted treatments as well as providing significant economic benefit through the manufacturing of new instruments. The work on biomechanics will also ultimately benefit patients as advances in tissue engineering are made and adopted by the life sciences industry.

Publications

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