Capital award for Core Equipment

Lead Research Organisation: University of Surrey
Department Name: Vice Provost (Research & Innovation)


This proposal addresses a proven demand for enhanced and extended multi-disciplinary core-equipment in materials research and artificial intelligence/machine learning research at Surrey. This is fully in line with the University of Surrey's Research and Innovation Strategy which seeks to conduct world-leading research, providing researchers with access to world-class laboratories and state-of-the-art equipment.

The selected core equipment items that we would like to fund through this award are as follows:
1. Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM)
2. Thermal Analysis Equipment - Thermogravimetric Analyser (TGA) and Differential Scanning Calorimeter (DSC)
3. Glove Box Facility
4. AI@Surrey High Throughput Compute (HTC) Testbed Facility

Planned Impact

Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) underpins the characterisation of all classes of engineering materials from the classic categories of metal, polymers, and ceramics to hybrids and nanomaterials. The extra capacity and capability afforded by a new SEM, with X-ray analysis, will enhance our research in a variety of areas, including: additive and advanced manufacturing, advanced metrology, aerospace, automotive, defence, electronic, functional, nano and nuclear materials. This improved capability, in spatial resolution and new imaging modes, will increase the quality of data gathered. The additional capacity for our 100+ users will enable more carefully planned and longer experiments, offering improved data quality through greater statistical reliability and better critical design. This will enhance the quality of research outputs, and increase the value of the research for our research partners such as local manufacturing SMEs, NPL, Rolls-Royce, McLaren, DSTL, and CCFE.

Thermal Analysis Equipment (DSA & TGA) - The new equipment in the Thermal Analysis facility will impact on the economy, people, and knowledge. The equipment will support consultancy and services to industry in support of product development. It will increase the competitiveness of industry (notably aerospace, defence, chemicals and pharmaceuticals) when used in their sponsored research projects. When used in collaborative research projects, the equipment will have an impact on the competitiveness of industry, notably aerospace, defence, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, which all rely on fundamental materials research. Training offered by the facility will build skills in early career researchers (ECRs), including Engineering Doctoral students within the MiNMaT Doctoral Training Centre. Fundamental measurements of phase transitions and thermal phenomena obtained via the facility will contribute to the knowledge base of the properties of condensed matter and materials systems.

Glove Box Facility - Through this grant, the University is aiming to bring together excellence in batteries and materials research from across its engineering community. This will be achieved via the set-up of a co-located glove box facility for the faculty, with two types of glove box to be purchased and made available to a wide user base. A high specification MBraun glovebox (dry box) is essential for the manipulation of air/moisture sensitive chemicals; an inert atmosphere underpins future research of six academic staff, including impact in EPSRC strategic areas (including Fuel Cells, Energy Storage and Catalysis) and grand challenges (Dial a Molecule, Directed Assembly, Energy). This strengthens infrastructure for existing grants in battery research and will have wider impact in the development of industrial/commercial support and deployment. The nitrogen glovebox will support diverse activities including: organic-inorganic and perovskite solar cells, perovskite X-ray sensors, organic semiconductor sensors, Li-ion and Na-ion batteries and supercapacitors. Additional capacity will improve efficiency and expand the operation.

AI@Surrey HTC - A cross-University HTC compute facility will provide a testbed facility for AI and Machine Learning collaboration from fundamental research through to real-world application. This will provide the essential resource required to catalyse collaboration between domain experts with access to unique datasets and leading experts in AI within CVSSP. Specific application areas of research strength where there is considerable potential for growth in AI research collaboration include digital health and ageing, veterinary science, security and data privacy, 5G communications, environmental sustainability, remote sensing, space and autonomous systems. Further, cross-University collaboration will specifically address the ethics, fairness, regulation and understanding of blackbox AI systems which is essential to their development for the benefit of society


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