The Leeds EPSRC Nanoscience and Nanoequipment User Facility

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Chemical and Process Engineering


This proposal is to provide significant "free at point of use" pump-priming access for external users to state-of-the-art nanoscience equipment and nanoscience expertise at the University of Leeds. Analysis is to be focused on soft matter materials i.e. access for nanotechnology researchers specialising in both inorganic nanosystems and hybrid inorganic/ organic systems / i.e. bionanotechnology.

The operational strategy of this small-scale facility has been refined by our experience of delivering high quality science and training over the past 9 years and we will continue to support a broad range of UK users, advance high quality collaborative science, and provide a high external utilisation factor for existing, well maintained capital equipment. We will align our activities with user-driven research themes that map onto the EPSRC Shaping capabilities initiatives relevant to the Physical Sciences, as well as themes of societal importance.

Accessible facilities will include a synergistic ("one stop shop") combination of inter-related techniques for both characterisation and structural and device fabrication: low voltage scanning electron microscopy (SEM); (cryo-) analytical transmission electron microscopy (TEM); near ambient pressure X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS); (cryo-) focused ion beam (FIB) and electron beam lithography (EBL) together with associated cleanroom access. We estimate that this equipment base and its inherent capability would be relevant across up to 50% of the 51 themes associated with the EPSRC Physical Sciences. However, as stated above, it is our intention to provide a specialism in soft matter materials. As a group we have a strong track record in Nanometrology research in the area of hybrid organic/inorganic systems and with the newly acquired instrumentation outlined above, we are able to analyse electron beam sensitive or 'soft' materials with improved dose control, with faster, more sensitive detectors and of particular note, in the frozen, hydrated state, enabling us to explore analytical science on soft matter systems in the near-native state.

We expect the new instrumentation to make significant impact in Chemical Engineering, Electronic Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Physics, Chemistry, Food Sciences, Earth & Environment, and Biological Sciences.

We believe that this integrated analytical approach will ultimately provide a much more productive service both in terms of overall scientific understanding and also output (in terms of training, results, peer reviewed papers and grant applications), as opposed to the piecemeal provision of many separate specialist activities. We also believe that, as a grouping, we possess the combined experience and facilities to deliver this fully integrated service successfully and efficiently.

Planned Impact

The provision of funding to support a free-at-point-of-access user facility will ensure a high external utilisation factor for existing, high-value, capital equipment at Leeds, with the income ensuring that this equipment is well supported in terms of staff, and well maintained and upgraded where appropriate. The impact of the investment for UK users would be monitored by an external Steering Committee using a set of key performance indicators and impact would be maximised via our active advertising and outreach campaign targeting, for instance, workshops for DTCs in Nanoscience, Energy, Materials as well as advertising at appropriate conferences. Training events would be continued. The combined facilities would be coordinated actively to attract the best science and that which is most relevant to the RCUK thematic areas, and to act as a "feeder" for larger, more specialised characterisation facilities such as SuperSTEM, NEXUS (XPS), Diamond and ISIS. Hence, the activity will be designed to be complementary to, not competing with, medium scale facilities.

The University is proactive in promoting its research equipment - all equipment of >£25k value (i.e. all the equipment listed here) is classified using a three-level taxonomy, & this same scheme has been adopted across the N8 group of research intensive universities. Leeds equipment can be viewed externally (, allowing us to promote capability to both academia & industry, and encourage external use, & avoiding duplication; it also searchable on the N8 Shared Research Equipment Inventory website ( Shared facilities additionally provide opportunity for cross-fertilisation of research.


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Description The current generation of transmission electron microscopes (TEM) can provide atomic scale resolution images and chemistry of inorganic crystals and crystalline surfaces. Organic crystals however are so sensitive to electron irradiation that analysis by TEM generally requires limiting damage to the sample while extracting useful information. We have developed ways to improve the resolution at which we obtain information from these type of samples before they alter under the electron beam.

We are now seeking to apply these techniques to a range of organic compounds and biological systems.
Exploitation Route These new technique routes open up the possibility of crystal lattice resolution images of organic compounds used by the pharmaceutical industry and that this can provide important information on the effects of formulation processing on drug properties. Enabling for example, identification of sites of recrystallization in amorphous solid dispersions.
Sectors Chemicals,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

Description We have undertaken > £150 h service microscopy contracts for three pharmaceutical companies under a series of non disclosure agreements to provide data supporting research, development, manufacturing and submission to regulatory bodies.
First Year Of Impact 2020
Sector Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology
Impact Types Economic