Supporting World-Class Labs at the University of Manchester

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: The Research Office


Since its creation in 2004, the University of Manchester has focussed on building its reputation for world-class research, and has risen rapidly in world university league tables. It now ranks within the top 35 institutions in the world. Our stated aim is to to provide state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, and pioneer arrangements for their more efficient use, including sharing.

Now we propose to use our EPSRC Capital Award for Core Equipment to support researchers in the Faculty of Science and Engineering, by providing state-of-the-art equipment in fields aligned with University of Manchester strategic priorities. Following a round of competitive bidding, the projects we have chosen for investment are:

* A state-of-the-art powder X-ray diffractometer (XRD) for determining the structure of materials. This will increase the capability and capacity of our XRD facility by replacing an obsolete instrument. The new capabilities will support our growing portfolios of research in catalysis and identifying newly-synthesised materials, particularly porous materials. The instrument will be available to all researchers from the University of Manchester and to external users in other universities and also industry.

* A high resolution, high throughput mass spectrometer for identification and detection of large biomolecules. This will increase the capability and capacity of our mass spectrometry facility by replacing two ageing instruments that were decommissioned during 2019. The instrument is particularly useful for identifying heavy molecules, such as those used in biomanufacturing, or in the bio-synthesis of pharmaceuticals, molecular machines, and nanostructures. The instrument will be available to researchers in the University of Manchester, other universities and a wide range of industry users.

* A unique 'make and characterise' facility for mineral dusts, which will be created by co-locating new and existing instruments. A jet mill will be used to create the dusts that will then be characterised in one location. This will allow us to study how jet engines are destroyed by dust, mimicking the real conditions inside a jet engine. It will provide a significant uplift in our capability in this field, will underpin multidisciplinary collaborations between environmental sciences and mechanical engineering, and support longstanding collaborations with the aviation industry.

* A new workstation for studying materials under environmental conditions where they can be electrochemically corroded, in order to find new ways to protect them. Examples are the flowing solutions saturated with hydrogen sulphide that are encountered in geothermal power stations and the flowing fluid conditions found inside oil pipelines. It will be used by around 20 groups working in metallurgy and corrosion and their external partners in other universities and in industry.

Planned Impact

The proposed investments will have impact in the following ways:

* They will seed new activity and help establish critical mass at UoM in a number of fields; examples are a planned centre of excellence in health monitoring and predictive maintenance of air breathing systems, and new operando measurements of electrochemical corrosion.

* They will enable new external collaborations and enhance existing ones. These collaborators include instrument manufacturers and end users of our research in industry. Examples include Rolls Royce, DSTL, BP, Airbus and AkzoNobel.

* They will generate new IP, leading to patents and other exploitation. For example, the improvement in research infrastructure that will result from creating a new facility for making and characterising mineral dusts is expected to help the aviation industry to better plan their fleet movements and maintenance schedules thanks to a better understanding of the degradation rates in key environments. The new facility for studying electrochemical corrosion will, for example, enable corrosion protection to be assessed in the flowing fluid conditions encountered in oil pipelines and lead to work with new industry partners in geothermal corrosion. The addition of state-of-the-art instruments to our X-ray diffraction and mass spectrometry facilities will strengthen our strong collaborations with instrument manufacturers.

* They will help researchers at UoM to tackle the grand challenges facing our world - for example in developing future therapies, utilising CO2 or air quality. This in turn helps address the agendas of GCRF and ISCF, for example by tackling key global problems such as providing new technologies for carbon capture and storage.

* They will enable high quality public engagement. Selected investments underpin research in fields of high interest to the general public and to government and policy makers (air quality, sequestering CO2, future drugs, etc.). The resulting engagement will be made in a myriad of different ways including Royal Society Summer Science Exhibits, science festivals such as Pint of Science and Bluedot, schools talks, crowd experiments, blogs and other use of social media.

* Access to state-of-the-art equipment will help the career development of our PhD students and ECRs and thus help develop the next generation of talented researchers who will contribute to the UK economy.


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