Heriot-Watt University EPSRC Core Equipment Funding Award

Lead Research Organisation: Heriot-Watt University
Department Name: Sch of Engineering and Physical Science


Our vision for the Core Equipment Allocation is to fund two equipment suites is to facilitate ambitious world-class research initiatives involving a range of academic teams which include mixture of experienced and early career researchers. The first item of equipment is a high-power laser with a broad tuning range, ultra-narrow linewidths, and a large continuous mode-hop-free scanning range. The laser will be used in laser spectroscopy and quantum control of novel quantum materials and devices and shared between several experimental setups in a shared facility used by multiple research groups. Ultimately, this research will enable new ways to measure, compute, and communicate information at the quantum level. The second equipment suite is for mass spectrometry to allow a range of capabilities around gas-chromatography and inductively coupled plasma MS. The mass spectrometry suite will be shared across many research groups in the Institute of Chemical Sciences through to other schools in the University. This will allow us the characterise the species we make in new synthetic methodologies and to identify all the key stages in a catalytic cycle for example. This then means that we can optimise synthetic strategies and design new catalysts for greener chemistry.

Planned Impact

(1) In the short term (0-5years), the Ti:Saphire laser will have its largest impact in the academic community. Via high profile publications, presentations at international conferences and workshops, we aim to continue to impact the leading edge of emerging research fields. In the medium term (5-15 years), the laser will impact the semiconductor industry and the emerging quantum technology industry. The spectroscopy and characterization of technologically important materials such as SiC will improve the understanding of the structure of defects that affect the performance of microelectronic devices. Developing novel 2D semiconductor heterostructure devices and offer potential for huge impact in 'classical' semiconductor technologies, in particular, light emitting or absorbing devices. Similarly, nanophotonic technology developed for 'quantum' applications can also positively impact classical light active devices. In this timeframe it is likely that the research undertaken with the laser can impact early generation quantum devices, in particular for sensing and communication. In the long term (>20 years), the research has significant potential to impact revolutionary new quantum technologies which outperform their classical counterparts. Finally, PhD students and post-docs working daily with the laser will acquire expertise in semiconductor physics, optics, electron spin resonance, high-speed electronics, cryogenics, programming and data analysis. This will help create a skilled workforce for academia and high-tech industry in the short-, medium-, and long-term. Throughout the activities outlined in "Pathways to Impact", the public will gain awareness of the latest results in quantum physics, the promises of quantum technology and the impact of our work. This will position them to make conscious informed choices regarding why these activities are worth taxpayer support and help attract young people into the growing field.

(2) A similar impact profile is expected for the MS-suite. In the short term there will be significant academic beneficiaries with impact felt throughout all aspects of chemical synthesis and characterisation at Heriot-Watt. This equipment will directly allow us to design and build next generation catalytic materials, essential for more sustainable, environmentally friendly chemistry in the 21st century. Beyond this timeframe applications form our work developing novel catalysts, mixed-metal compounds, organic optoelectronic materials, and bespoke peptides will all significant have impact in their related fields. Industrially this equipment can drive new collaborations with our current partners in brewing and distilling and microplastics. PhD students and PDRAs will acquire core analytical skills and can benefit from complimentary training in all areas of chemical characterisation, which will greatly enhance their skillsets for academic research or work in the chemical/biochemical research industries.


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