EPSRC Capital Award for Core Equipment: University of Oxford

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Materials


This bid is to significantly modernize and upgrade Oxford's current capability and capacity in manufacturing engineering at the micro- and nano-scale across our departments of Chemistry, Engineering Science, Materials, and Physics. Our goal is to combine next-generation, nano/micro-manufacturing tools with state-of-the-art fabrication processes in order to realise a range of cutting-edge technologies and major scientific breakthroughs across a broad gamut of fields in the physical sciences.

In recent years, Oxford has become a leader in the development of new and advanced nano-manufacturing methodologies (such as photonic computing, displays, aberration-corrected 3D direct laser writing and additive nano-manufacturing); we wish to capitalise on this with the following investments in our underpinning micro/nano fabrication facilities:

Combined Atomic Layer Deposition and Physical Vapour Deposition System
Plasma-enhanced chemical vapour deposition
Mask aligner
Digital 3D imaging microscope

The new instruments will be co-located in a centralised cleanroom which houses a variety of existing micro-, nano-, and photo-fabrication infrastructure, thereby leveraging previous EPSRC and University investments.

Planned Impact

Access to state-of-the-art equipment that meets both current and emerging user demands is essential for world-leading research and innovation; and is precisely the area that this underpinning equipment grant will address. We have undertaken extensive consultation to identify key areas that currently constrain our research efforts: addressing these barriers will have a broad impact. Fabrication capabilities on a very fine scale down to sub-micron resolution are frequently required across a broad spectrum of research within Oxford. Enhancing such facilities will benefit four broad groups, and contribute to the Productive, Resilient and Healthy Nation outcomes of EPSRC's delivery framework to deliver prosperity to the UK:

1) UK Industry
Manufacturers and users of wearable technologies, semiconductor devices (including photovoltaics), displays, sensors, lasers, energy storage and data storage will benefit in two ways:
i. Access to advanced functional materials will lead to improved and new products, giving UK companies competitive advantages. The market for next gen advanced functional materials in the area of low carbon applications alone reached $113bn world-wide in 2018.
ii. Enabling faster advancement of device development and optimisation by reducing the cycle time between fabrication and testing. This will enable more competitive technological output.
These advances have the potential to develop multiple industrial sectors, generating long-term economic growth and jobs for the UK. (Productive Nation P1, P2, P3)

2) End users (including consumers)
Access to innovative, disruptive technology, across applications in energy (micro-sources and storage systems, energy harvesting, thermofluids and advanced materials); communication and navigation devices (MEMS, NEMS, gyroscopes, Metamaterials); security, tagging, tracking and ID; and advanced Displays (3D, Augmented, and Virtual Reality). Those applying semiconductor and thin-film devices to applications will benefit from the development of innovative, disruptive, novel devices and improved underpinning technologies. Consumers will benefit from improved efficiencies and capabilities of next-generation displays, photovoltaics, and computing technologies. (Productive and Resilient Nation P1, P2, R2, R3). Such technology will eventually even lead to superior health outcomes through inexpensive manufacturing technologies for more accurate and widely available monitoring technologies.

3) The next generation of academics and engineers
Graduate students and post-doctoral researchers will acquire enhanced technical skills through access to, and training on, the equipment, enhancing the UK skills base. UK Companies will benefit from access to highly trained personnel. (Resilient Nation R2). Needless to say, such skills are in high demand, but are lacking because of the high barriers to entry into these fields, and availability of equipment within a University will help give on-the-job training to a larger number of early career researchers and students.

4) Society
The development of technologies that will be anabled by superior fabrication facilities will lead to significant societal impact. Some examples are:
A) Cheaper, efficient solar energy: Research enabled by this investment will enable affordable PV via a significant reduction in materials and manufacturing costs, increasing global access to solar power and reducing the world's reliance on carbon emitting fossil fuels and improving energy sustainability. (Resilient Nation R1).
B) Developments in 3D micro- and nano-fabrication will lead to new possibilities in biomedical engineering, including implantable devices, bespoke prosthetics and new therapeutics. (Healthy Nation H3)
C) Developments in making functional devices on non traditional surfaces will enable health monitoring of large structures, and safety monitoring in industrial settings contributing to a safer workplace and higher quality of life.


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