Case for a Field Emission Gun Analytical Transmission Electron Microscope

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Chemistry


Electron and Scanning Probe Microscopies (EM and SPM) are critical techniques for researchers involved in materials science. Scanning electron and atomic force microscopes, which allow the surfaces of materials to be probed, are more widely available both in academia and industry due to their lower operational costs. Transmission electron microscopes (TEM), which allow the imaging of both the external and internal structure of materials at resolutions at least an order of magnitude better than SEMs, are generally more expensive and hence less widely available. TEMs are available in numerous configurations dependent on the specific nature of the materials under investigation. Recent advances in instrument and detector design have dramatically improved the analytical capabilities of TEMs such that they are essential instruments to support pioneering studies on nanostructured materials.

Understanding how chemically derived processes control the construction and organization of matter across nanoscopic length scales is of critical importance in diverse areas of materials research. Although many areas of nanoscience are burgeoning, there remains an urgent need to develop coherent and robust strategies towards the synthetic construction of functional nano-objects and nanostructures. In particular, the systematic design of nanoscale architectures from programmable components that collectively produce integrated functions has great transformative potential in key emerging fields such as bioelectronics, energy storage, sensing, nanoplasmonics, drug delivery and high performance green catalysis.

The requested field emission gun analytical transmission electron microscope [FEG-ATEM] will provide the sub nm resolution demanded to fill our current analytical information gap so that scientific ambitions in these research areas are not constrained. The instrument forms part of a strategic investment in advanced microscopy provision at Bristol, and is the centrepiece of ambitions for an internationally competitive materials characterization facility befitting the world-leading research it underpins.

Planned Impact

Materials have the potential to impact on societal issues such as Energy and Healthcare through key enabling technologies: nanotechnology, photonics, biotechnology and advanced materials. The University of Bristol (UoB) is an acknowledged international leader in Materials Research and cutting-edge analytical equipment such as the requested FEG-ATEM underpins progress in this research area and generates impact through the science enabled for our collaborators. With the new FEG-ATEM in place we will improve analysis for nanostructured materials and soft matter and the understanding of structure over multiple length scales through increased internal and external collaborations. Academic impact will arise from traditional key performance indicators (KPIs) such as highly rated peer-reviewed publications, review articles and presentations at major international conferences. Over the initial 4 year grant period we will use our expertise and experience of supporting multidisciplinary projects to broaden the user base in 3 key strategic areas: Synthetic Biology, Advanced Composites and Energy. All three are recognised as key contributors to local and national wealth creation facilitating the translation of fundamental research to industry and/or the clinic. We will be able to train a broad range of users across Engineering and Physical Sciences through the recently launched Bristol Doctoral College. Longer term this will provide the next generation of skilled users with the ability to acquire and interpret TEM data.

UoB has an excellent track record of engagement with industry, and the SoC supports a large number of industrially funded studentships. Through these, industry gains access to state-of-the-art facilities which may not be available on the industrial site. For example, recent experience providing analytical support for final stage clinical trials for a nanotherapeutic highlighted how the enhanced sensitivity and analytical capabilities of the FEG-ATEM would have significantly accelerated impact.

The UoB is a world leader in public engagement and more broadly scientific impact on society can be achieved by encouraging a positive public perception of science. This is highlighted by the Bristol ChemLabS outreach team, who have won numerous awards, including the Business in the Community, Big Tick Award for Education three years in a row 2009-11, the only University department of any type to do so. The CIF participates extensively in public engagement and outreach activities. For example, between 50 and 70 twenty-minute talks to 500-720 post-16 students and their teachers have been given each year for the last 5 years. These talks are hosted in the CIF allowing practical demonstrations on EMs of the instrument science and the facilitated research. In a recent project the CIF has worked with the BBC to produce a YouTube video on EM imaging which will be available online by the end of the year. The upgraded CIF will increase the breadth of high quality, nationally important science conveyed to the public, and enable members of the public (such as teachers) to participate in scientific activities.


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Description This grant funded the purchase and installation of a Jeol 2100F transmission electron microscope with STEM and EDX detectors. The new imaging and analytical capabilities have supported pioneering studies on nanostructured materials and facilitated significant advances in understanding of the structure and composition of materials including metallopolymers, porous solids, carbon nanodots and perovskites.
Exploitation Route Findings from the transmission electron microscopy based analyses conducted will advance mechanistic understanding and facilitate the production of new materials. This in turn may lead to improvements in the rational design of materials which may play a role in energy harvesting and storage, or which may have uses in healthcare such as anti-microbial structures or drug delivery will also stimulate research both within academia as well as industry. The electron microscope is also being used in undergraduate teaching as well as outreach events with the aim of inspiring the next generation of materials chemists.
Sectors Chemicals,Education,Energy,Healthcare

Description Chemistry departments within UK universities make significant contributions to worldwide societal challenges through impacts based in healthcare, energy and new materials. The School of Chemistry at the University of Bristol is an acknowledged leader in materials chemistry and research groups are working towards the production of novel polymeric, oxide-ceramic and carbon materials with applications in healthcare, energy harvesting and storage. Cutting-edge analytical equipment underpins progress in all of these research areas and impacts arising from investment in electron microscopy will broadly fall into four groups: in industry and academia as well as on the general public and society.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Chemicals,Education,Energy,Healthcare
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic

Description Experimental Equipment
Amount £562,000 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/M028216/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2015 
End 03/2016