Technologies for the Future

Lead Research Organisation: University of York
Department Name: Physics


Internationally leading science requires experimental facilities with state-of-the-art equipment. Advanced materials are a key driver of technological innovation, with widespread benefits for both science and society. In this project, we aim to refresh four facilities with impact across Physics, Electronics, Chemistry and Biology in order to enhance our capability in this area, with maximum usage across the University of York and beyond. We will install new physical and chemical characterisation systems to support a range of challenging new applications, for example, state of the art thin film growth capabilities, and biologically-inspired sensor technologies. Using these new facilities, we will achieve four major milestones for next-generation materials development:

1. Refresh thin film growth capabilities in order to develop next generation materials.

2. Renew electron microscopy facilities to facilitate high spatial resolution mapping of next generation materials.

3. Extend and refresh a capability in molecular characterisation to underpin multidisciplinary activities spanning the physical and life sciences.

4. Refresh, complement and extend the capabilities of the York Centre of Excellence in Mass Spectrometry (CoEMS) by addition of a high-performance Orbitrap Fusion instrument.

Through this proposal we will invest in state-of-the-art equipment that will enable us to create, analyse and understand new materials and use them to develop innovative interdisciplinary technologies within the university and with outside collaborators, including key industrial partners such as JEOL and Seagate.

Planned Impact

The investment in the four York equipment bundles to provide state-of-the-art equipment in advanced materials and analytical science will significantly enhance our capability to produce economic and societal impact of our research in the areas supported. This will be done by ensuring that the opportunities for licencing IP, creating commercial ventures and engaging with users are optimised, in addition to building the skills and capabilities of future employees in key industrial sectors related to advanced materials and analytical science. The impacts of the research will be enabled by externally facing facilities at the University of York, such as the Centre of Excellence in Mass Spectrometry (CoEMS), the York Plasma Institute and the York JEOL Nanocentre.

Bundle 1: Advanced Materials for Next generation Devices
This has the potential to impact of RF and microwave applications of magnetic materials by providing the size reduction and increased performance required for developments in mobile devices. The development of new magnetic materials can help remove fundamental physical bottlenecks to enable the field of spintronics to be fully exploited in the field of data storage. The equipment will also increase the understanding of plasma surface interactions which are key to understanding the applications of plasma technologies, which have the potential to be used in advanced manufacturing, medicine and materials science. The equipment provided in Bundle 1 will also have impacts on nanofabrication techniques, big data technologies and oxide based electronics.

Bundle 2: Replacement of FE-SEM with Associated Sample Preparation Tools
This replacement will ensure that the impacts that can be derived by FE-SEM are optimised. The significant funding already in place and the relevance of the tool to the project ensures that the equipment would make a impact across a wide range of technical areas. Also, the high number of industrially related projects in those bidding for the equipment will ensure that work of high impact will result. This bundle of equipment has the capability to have an impact in the field of Big Data by contributing to the development of low cost processors via the development of non-destructive evaluation methods of junction uniformity. The equipment will support developments that will have an impact in the semiconductor industry and be of benefit to companies who provide testing and characterisation services to that industry.

Bundle 3: Bio-Inspired Technologies
The equipment provided in this bundle will support research at the interface of the physical and biological sciences with the potential to have impact on a broad spectrum of stakeholders from manufacturers of analytical and diagnostic equipment, the electronics industry and software developers to healthcare providers and utility companies. The equipment will enable further exploration in the use of biological principals to inspire software and hardware solutions, including low-power DNA-electronic hybrid systems and autonomous swarm robotics. This bundle will also underpin many potential impacts in the healthcare sector, such as tissue engineering and clinical diagnostics where it will enhance the understanding of protein-protein interactions at the cellular level. Other impacts include the development of new technologies for monitoring air and water pollution.

Bundle 4: Orbitrap Fusion Mass Spectrometer
This equipment will enable impacts in the areas of biological, pharmaceutical, chemical, geological, environmental and historical/archaeological science, and support research in the high impact areas of bioenergy, catalysis, materials, tissue engineering, and antimicrobial resistance. The addition of the Orbitrap Fusion to the CoEMS will make the facility the pre-eminent open-access mass spectrometry facility in the UK and so will help deliver impacts through the research across the N8 Consortium as well as more broadly in the UK.


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Description Bundle 3 - Electronics
Most significant achievements:
In recognition of this award, the Department of Electronics funded the refurbishment of the new Bio-Inspired technologies lab. This is now complete and all equipment is in place and operational. The laboratory is a highly interdisciplinary facility and is already supporting a range of research activities across the university (see examples below). More broadly, this award has enabled us to establish new collaborations with national and international university partners.

Inter-Disciplinary activity:
Prof. Potts (Biology): Self-assembly of functional nanostructures using novel protein scaffolds.
Prof. Krauss (Physics): Photonic biosensor arrays for future healthcare technology.
Dr Douthwaite (Chemistry): Electrochemical characterisation of new photocatalytic materials.
Prof. Tyrrell (Electronics): Bio-inspired computation
Prof. Leake (Physics): Single-molecule imaging of DNA damage
Dr. Kroger (Physics): Structure and function of biomineralisation proteins
Prof. Boxall (Environment): Antibody-mimetic sensors for environmental monitoring.
Prof. Timmis (electronics): 3D printed autonomous robotics

Inter-University collaboration:
Prof. Walti (University of Leeds)
We are collaborating on two research programmes that make use of the equipment facilitated by this award.
1. Hybrid peptide-electronics: Research involves the use of FT-IR to characterise the structure of helix-loop-helix peptides when immobilised and under the influence of an electric field. A paper and EPSRC proposal are in preparation.
2. Surface acoustic waves for cell-sorting: Research exploits the 3D printing facilities to prototype microfluidic devices for sample handling.

Dr. Johns Evans (New York University): A model "mini-proteome" for biomineralizing nanocrystal. A paper has been submitted to the ACS journal Biochemistry (22/02/2016).

Dr. Sarah Satinland (University of Sheffield): Biomineralization proteins for self-assembly of high-density memory storage. This collaboration has been awarded a White Rose BBSRC DTP studentship.

To what extent were the objective met?
1. All equipment requested is operational and housed in a newly refurbished laboratory.
2. A management team has been established consisting of Dr Johnson (Electronics) and Prof. Leake (Dept. Physics) with representatives from the departments of Chemistry and Biology, reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of the facility. Technical support agreement has been reached with hosting department and a funding structure developed for long term support of the facility.
3. The new equipment is already producing data and developing understanding far in advance of what was previously possible, and much needed capacity.
Exploitation Route Bundle 3 - Electronics
Research funding: The facility and equipment supported by this award will be used to support further funding proposals. Two research proposals reliant on this equipment have already been submitted:
1. MRC Discovery Award, Awarded £679,802, 2016-2018, Biophysics of Infection and Immunity: From Molecules to Cells to Tissues, M Coles, S Johnson, C Baumann, P Kaye, T Krauss, M Leake, P. O'Toole, J Potts, A Rot, M. Van der Woude
2. BBSRC Tools and Resources, Submitted £186,974.26, 2016-2018, ELPHS: Electro-Photonac sensors for targetted antibiotic treatment, S. Johnson, T. Krauss, A. Dume-Klair, A. Parkin, G. Thomas, J. Ensor

Engagement and collaboration: Long-term support of this facility requires extensive collaboration across disciplines and sectors. We have already established a strong interdisciplinary user base in the University of York and are beginning to establish collaborations across the higher education sector. We have also started engaging more with potential industry partners (e.g. Cybula) and are currently establishing advertising material (website, flyers) to advertise our facilities more broadly.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Electronics,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

Description Biophysics of Infection and Immunity: from Molecules to Cells to Tissues
Amount £680,000 (GBP)
Funding ID MC_PC_15073 
Organisation Medical Research Council (MRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2016 
End 08/2017
Description Developing rice straw for animal feed
Amount £389,922 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/P022499/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2017 
End 03/2019
Description Environmental drivers of antimicrobial resistance in Sri Lanka
Amount £99,600 (GBP)
Organisation Medical Research Council (MRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Description GCRF: Assessing treatment with miltefosine as an intervention strategy for visceral leishmaniasis in Brazil
Amount £429,324 (GBP)
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2017 
End 12/2018
Description Multiparameter Assay for Profiling Susceptibility (MAPS)
Amount £1,127,252 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/P02324X/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2017 
End 07/2022
Description Phytodetoxification of the explosive 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene
Amount £664,365 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/P005713/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2017 
End 03/2020
Description Research Project: PhytoPharm
Amount £114,000 (GBP)
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 08/2017 
End 07/2019
Description Resonant and shaped photonics for understanding the physical and biomedical world
Amount £5,023,462 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/P030017/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2017 
End 08/2020
Description Sensors for clean water: a participatory approach for technology innovation
Amount £1,182,012 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/P027571/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2017 
End 04/2020
Description Sensor 100: nnovation in Environmental Monitoring talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact 21 September 2016, Sensor 100:Innovation in Environmental Monitoring, University of York, UK
"Combining spot and composite sampling approaches to understand pharmaceutical exposure in freshwater environments", Emily Burns (oral presentation).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
Description Talk at Response to Emergency Incidents Meeting No. 22, FERA, Sand Hutton, 9th November 2016. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact 'State-of-the-art mass spectrometry in analysing emerging pharmaceutical contaminants' - invited talk to the Water Companies & Other Key Laboratories (Mutual Aid) Response to Emergency Incidents Meeting No. 22 FERA, Sand Hutton, 9th November 2016.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016