South of England Analytical Electron Microscope [ATEM]

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Materials


The UK has for many years held a leading position and pioneered the use of transmission electron microscopy in the study of every class of engineering material. This proposal is to install a state-of-the-art fast acquisition and high-throughput analytical transmission electron microscope (ATEM) as a regional research facility for a group of universities in the South of England: Oxford, Bristol, Southampton, Exeter, Surrey, and Bath. Southampton and Bath Universities are founder members of the EPSRC-funded UK HE Facilities and Equipment Sharing Network Uniquip, and this application embraces the network aims to increase the visibility of and access to research equipment within and between institutions.

Supported by a strong local infrastructure in Oxford, the instrument will allow us to address key analytical problems and generate greater impact in projects of strategic importance in the research groups of 23 academic staff in the 6 partner universities, working on projects with >20 industrial partners. The specific theme areas we have selected to work on will use the ATEM to contribute to the development of novel materials across a wide range of engineering themes, including power generation, semiconductor materials, nanotechnology and catalysis, and to assist UK industry to maintain competitiveness and grow market share.

Planned Impact

The primary purpose of this new shared instrument is to enable and accelerate a broad portfolio of research projects, so much of the intended impact will be captured in the traditional manner - excellent papers in highly respected international journals and presentations at the major specialist conferences. The applicant team from the 3 partner and 3 associate universities have an excellent track record of publication and dissemination with co-authors in UK and international industry as well as many other UK HEIs, and we are confident that the new instrument will expand the visibility and impact of UK analytical microscopy and the project areas that it supports.

In addition:

[1] It is our intention throughout the project to look for new scientific partners - especially in the South and South West - who can bring exciting new experiments to the new instrument. We are confident that there will be many opportunities to expand the user base.

[2] A central feature of our vision for the new instrument is that it will help the university partners deliver important new results and understanding to our industrial collaborators. This is not an activity that will have to be built up from scratch as the investigators already hold a substantial portfolio of projects funded by industry, but the range, depth and significance of the output on problems that are both scientifically extremely challenging and of direct and immediate commercial relevance will be substantially increased by the availability of a genuinely state-of-the-art machine.

We propose a number of key performance indicators (KPIs) to enable the Steering Board to evaluate the impact of the ATEM and to provide evidence for redefining during the project the management strategies for the instrument.
The number of publications and presentations of research that makes use of the instrument.
The number of user days provided by the instrument
Instrument uptime.
The number of new users trained on the instrument.

These KPIs will be evaluated on a quarterly basis, and reviewed by the Steering Board who will then recommend to the Allocation Panel changes in emphasis or direction in work scheduled on the ATEM.


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Luxa J (2017) 2H?1T Phase Engineering of Layered Tantalum Disulfides in Electrocatalysis: Oxygen Reduction Reaction. in Chemistry (Weinheim an der Bergstrasse, Germany)

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MacArthur KE (2016) Quantitative Energy-Dispersive X-Ray Analysis of Catalyst Nanoparticles Using a Partial Cross Section Approach. in Microscopy and microanalysis : the official journal of Microscopy Society of America, Microbeam Analysis Society, Microscopical Society of Canada

Description In support of our ongoing research relationships with industrial collaborators. the ATEM microscope has been used to generate new results on (a) the atomic scale degradation mechanisms of operating battery materials, (b) the damage mechanisms of nuclear materials under corrosion and irradiation conditions and (c) to advance the understanding of new analytical techniques using aberration-corrected microscopy.
Exploitation Route (a) In the design of new battery materials and designs (as part of the UK Faraday Institution)
(b) in the design of new corrosion resistant alloys for use in future nuclear power plant
Sectors Electronics,Energy

Description JEOL / PN Detector 
Organisation Jeol UK Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Demonstration of applications of prototype fast pixelated STEM detector.
Collaborator Contribution Loan of prototype fast pixelated detector.
Impact See publications linked to this award with JEOL co-authors.
Start Year 2015
Description Talk to university admin staff 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The University of Oxford organizes staff team days where they become familiar with aspects of the university that they are not usually exposed to, for example research. This year, I was invited to talk about my group research and I chose the topic of "Understanding degradation of materials in nuclear reactors". I expanted the topic so that the audience could also appreciate how our characterization techniques allowed the understanding of "big" problems by looking at "small" volumes (where atoms are observed directly). I believe the audience enjoyed it very much, since there were many questions afterwards and, as a result, many members of the admin team now recognize me and my research and told me they feel more engaged and "valued".
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description Undergraduate demonstration of TEM capabilities 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Every year I organize demonstrations in our research labs to familiarized groups of interested undergraduate students with our rearch projects. I use the characterization of cracks in nuclear reactor materials as they are perfect to illustrate how the failure of a several tonnes component can be understood by looking at the changes of a few atoms around a crack tip. All students are enrolled in our Materials Science undergraduate degree and the main purpose of this activity is to establish tangible links between the topics they study in their lectures and lab practicals and the "real" research that goes on in the department (most of the time, unnoticed by them). The outcome is always very rewarding, since I schedule the demo for 1.5h per group, but the number of questions and requests aftwerwards easily take the session beyond the 2h duration. Many of the undergraduate students will hopefully be interested enough in my research area to apply for a DPhil project in my group.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019