Multi-User Facility for SAXS/WAXS Studies on Nanoscale Structures in Controlled Environments.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: School of Food Science and Nutrition


It is proposed to acquire a latest-generation, state-of-the-art Small- and Wide Angle X-ray Scattering (SAXS/WAXS) instrument to versatile research capability for the characterization of nano- and mesostructure of materials and products, their application and their processing, under control of environmental conditions. Examples of research range include samples as diverse as highly ordered liquid crystals, amorphous powders, dense high performance alloys and dilute protein solutions. SAXS and WAXS provide structural information in two complementary length scale regimes, with SAXS providing the overall size, shape and structure of particles and, in the case of bulk materials, underlying internal nanostructure in the range from 1-500 nm, while WAXS offering sub-nm (molecular level) structure for components with long range molecular order in liquid, gel and solid phases.

Recent developments in laboratory SAXS/WAXS instruments have resulted in a performance step change, for many experiments closing the gap to high brilliance Synchrotron SAXS beamlines. High intensity sources (dual and triple energy solutions), scatter-less collimation and the latest detector advances have thus opened the door to new opportunities. The facility will allow us to develop, integrate and test novel, versatile sample environments investigating material nanostructures under process and synthesis conditions.

The instrument will operate as a multi-user and multidisciplinary SAXS/WAXS research facility at Harwell, under the University of Leeds (UoL) strategic relationship with the Diamond Light Source. It will (i) be a rich scientific access point of excellence for UoL and UK stakeholders who are expected to share more than 160 days of experimental beamtime per year, (ii) allow the development and testing of new sample environments, (iii) act as a focus for training the next generation of X-ray scattering experts, (iv) create a facility for industry-led research, and (v) provide the nucleus for a Network of Excellence Initiative that will strengthen and connect activities to other local SAXS-Labs in the UK.

In addition to a large core team of experienced staff, a highly qualified technician will support the maintenance of the instrument, and most importantly, support all internal and external users who access this SAXS/WAXS equipment. We also request travel funds to cover the expenses of the UoL and DLS partners travelling between institutions.

Such a capability opens up new horizons for the characterisation of complex soft matter, polymers, metals and alloys, bio-materials and advanced solid materials used in sectors such as pharmacy and healthcare, food, fine chemicals, information and communications technology (ICT), energy, process engineering and manufacturing.

Planned Impact

In terms of economic impact, both the University of Leeds and Diamond Light Source have a long- standing track record in in applied research by collaboration with industrial users, by providing commercial measurement service, as well as by spin-out and creation of IP licences. The Multi-User Facility for Small- and Wide Angle X-ray Scattering (MUseSWAXS) sited at the Harwell campus will benefit from UoL's high integration with the Industrial Liaison Office at Diamond, providing an established and well-advertised route for proprietary industrial access covering 15 different research areas, including Food, Consumer Products, Electronics, Energy, Fuels, Engineering and Healthcare to mention the most relevant areas. Industrial users will further benefit from the integrated Development Lab for designing new experimental methods (combining for instance ultrasound with X-ray scattering) and for developing novel sample-manipulation stages.

In terms of people, access to the multi-user facility and working with the top-class SAXS/WAXS equipment will enhance the professional skills of post doctorial researches and that of PhD students. Our close bonds with 8 EPSRC Centres for Doctorial Training (CDT), for instance with Soft Matter and Functional Interfaces (SOFI) and for Complex Particulate Products and Processes (cP3) will ensure that early career training will underpin collaboration with the wide range of industrial partners supporting our CDT studentships. Additionally, throughout the regularly held workshops, industrial collaborators and students national-wide will benefit as part of our research-led teaching programme.

In terms of knowledge, the expected top-class research results will affect other academic researchers internationally through their dissemination via publication in high-impact journals and at national and international conferences. Further, the cross-discipline applicants are active members of various national and international networks that will enhance dissemination even further and provide networking with world-leading scholars of materials science and engineering.

In terms of wider societal benefits, the new facility will impact on a wide range of consumer sectors, which are reflected well with the EPSRC themes Physical Sciences, Energy, Engineering, Healthcare Technologies and Manufacturing the Future. Finally, we will ensure to communicate all established societal and economic benefits enabled by the MUseSWAXS to policy makers, the wider public, charities and other research funders.


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