Core Capability for Chemistry Research - University College London

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Chemistry


The purpose of this application is to improve the equipment infrastructure within the UCL chemistry department so that this can be used both by UCL but also the partner universities- KCL, QMUL, Kent, Greenwich and the Open University.

In particular we will obtain new powder diffraction and single crystal X-ray diffraction equipment, two new mass spectrometers and an atomic force microscope. This equipment will underpin the research of around 300 Ph.D/Eng.D students as well as some 80 post doctoral research scientists and over 100 academic members of staff. Furthermore over 80 Uk based companies sponsor Ph.D. students at UCL and the partner universities - with wide ranging interests from new energy efficient coatings for homes, new methods of energy generation, hair care products, new recyclable beer bottles, new treatments for cancer and multiple sclerosis, new battery materials and implants

In single crystal XRD the new equipment will underpin studies on
(1) The chemical origins of life
(2) New bio-inspired catalysts
(3) New drug materials and polymorphs of drugs that could be more easily absorbed by the body
(4) Determination on the chirality of key molecules-to understand how they work as drugs

In powder XRD the new equipment will underpin studies on
[1] new hard wearing and low friction coatings- for engines
[2] new materials for use in energy conservation
[3] studies that reduce energy use in making chemicals (reducing the carbon footprint)
[4] new battery materials and catalysts

In mass spectrometery the new equipment will underpin studies on
[1] sensing pollutants in the atmosphere
[2] new chemical sensors - for personal health monitoring
[3] developing new and more efficient catalysts
[4] developing new chemical reactions and understanding chemical processes

In AFM the new equipment will underpin research in self-assembly of highly ordered [1] networks that can be induced to react to form covalent organic frameworks (COFS)
[2] structural changes associated with reactions and the formation of COFs.
[3] measurement of the thermodynamics of self assembly in COFs

Planned Impact

The new instrumentation and the resulting science will have significant impact on:
The economy - through the development of new molecules and deposition of new thin films. Commercial and economic benefits will occur through a myriad of methods- for example new crystal polymorphs of drugs for better absorbtion and tolerance in the body; new transparent conductive oxide coatings for use in both energy harvesting (PV devices) and in the development of the precursors and their use in a scaled-up process to form films on glass in partnership with leading UK companies. At present UCL chemistry has collaborative research projects with over 50 industrial companies (including NSG, Tata, Rolls Royce, Huntsman, Crystal Global, JM, Ondine, Bekkers, P+G, AWE, GSK, Eli Lilly, BOC, Infinium, Silicon Labs, SEMtech, SAFC, Accelyrs, Quest, SAB Miller, Thomas Swann, TWI, Miba, Ion Bond, Astra Zenica). The new equipment will underpin and strengthen these interactions- for example SAB Miller want to lightweight their glass bottles to reduce the carbon footprint- new coatings developed at UCL will be used. It is of key importance to understand the crystallography of the coatings and match this with strength and lubricity values. We will also have further opportunity to develop new industrial contacts due to the new equipment and also for partner universities to use the equipment with their industrial facing projects. Direct access to the equipment from industry will be granted for key projects at appropriate FEC rates. The partner universities in the bid have a wide range of industrial interactions especially in drug discovery and analytical chemistry. Chemistry contributes to 20% of the UK GDP- the researchers from the consortium of universities interact with some of the UK's most successful manufacturing and chemical companies. It is expected that the new infrastructure will improve these interactions by allowing new lines of enquiry and characterisation methods. In particular for the coatings industries and for healthcare.
People - through the technical expertise developed throughout the project by the various research teams, including the training received and the range of transferable skill developed via interaction with industry, academics, the media and the general public. The training provided is overseen to ensure the students get best value out of the equipment (Mr Vickers). The department has found that this approach provides excellent training, increases student confidence and encourages enthusiastic engagement from the students. We will make these courses available for our partner universities in this bid (Kent, OU, QMUL, Kings, Greenwich- up to 10 places a year) as well as providing a service for other neighbouring universities and partner departments at UCL. This will increase the pool of trained researchers available to benefit the UK science base. Over 300 students and 80 PDRA are expected to benefit from the new kit.
Knowledge - A wide range of very high impact papers and patents will come from the instrumentation. The new instrumentation will underpin our research that address EPSRC grand challenges specifically in Energy, Healthcare Technologies, Manufacturing the Future and the Digital Economy. Over 20 EPSRC grants (>14M) in the UCL chemistry department are focussed on this activity in particular for healthcare and for energy activities.
Society - by developing science and technology to improve the quality of our life - for example solar energy panels offer alternative solutions for a range of energy requirements - Pilkington TCO glass is used in the manufacture of thin plate panels used in the direct conversion of solar radiation to electricity. TCO films also find application in handheld devices, such as iphones, ipads and touch screen displays. The new instrumentation will enable rapid screening of new arrays to develop TCO materials with higher figure of merit and new hair care products.


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Bhachu D (2015) Origin of High Mobility in Molybdenum-Doped Indium Oxide in Chemistry of Materials

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Blackburn B (2015) Synthesis and Characterisation of Various Diester and Triester Adducts of TiCl 4 in European Journal of Inorganic Chemistry

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Chen F (2015) Creating robust superamphiphobic coatings for both hard and soft materials in Journal of Materials Chemistry A

Description The award funded equipment infrastructure in the chemistry department at UCL, this included new X-ray diffractometers and mass spectrometry kit. This equipment has been used in more than 40 joint projects with a variety of industries (GSK, JM, BP, Pilkington etc).
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Education,Energy
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic

Description EPSRC equipmnet call
Amount £3,600,000 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/M015157/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2016