Capital Award for Core Equipment at Durham University

Lead Research Organisation: Durham University
Department Name: Vice Chancellor's Office


This grant provides support for underpinning equipment for research in chemistry, physics and materials science. By increasing throughput of samples, decreasing downtime due to equipment failure and benefitting from improvements in performance of modern instruments, the new equipment will lead to greater efficiency, higher performance and lower costs. Four pieces of instrumentation will be acquired.

Mass spectrometry is a core technique underpinning research in synthetic chemistry. The requested instrument replaces a current spectrometer at the end of its life and provides automated spectra of samples initially separated by high pressure liquid chromatography. UV absorption spectra are provided alongside the mass distribution of the samples. This system allows rapid assessment of samples with enhanced results being available due to the new system.

'Energy dispersive analysis of X-rays' (EDX) enables the chemical composition of a sample within an electron microscope to be determined. This detector will be added to the current focused ion beam instrument which as well as being able to image samples can also "machine" the sample with micron precision. With this attachment as the machining is taking place the user will be able to analyse the material being ablated. In certain structured samples this will enable more precise machining as well as mapping information on the local composition of samples.

Microwave ovens are a familiar gadget in every kitchen and microwaves can also be used to heat up chemical reactions. Microwave reactors will soon be as common in a chemistry laboratory as in the kitchen. This grant will enable the purchase of a microwave reactor to support a range of projects in synthetic chemistry and materials science and be of particular benefit to early-career researchers.

NMR is a standard method that is used by synthetic chemists to ensure that they have produced the correct chemical and to determine its purity at the end of chemical synthesis. In an active research department such analysis is provided as a service with samples being left for analysis. The purchase here is for a robotic handling system which will take the sample and then run a spectrum minimising the sample handling time and maximising the throughput of the instrument. The autosampler will enable the NMR spectrometer to run up to 60,000 spectra per year.

Planned Impact

The main impact of the purchases will be an increase in the quality of research publications, due to the additional capabilities offered by the EDX and microwave reactors, and an increase in the quantity of publications, due to the higher throughput and reduced downtime of the LCMS and NMR instruments. The number of publications will be monitored as described in the pathways to impact.

There will also be impact through improved training for PhD students. They will then enter the research job market place better equipped to work at the forefront of technology helping to deliver the government aim of 2.4% of GDP going into research.

All the analytical services in Durham are available to external users, both academic and commercial. Enhanced capabilities will improve the value of information provided to commercial users and increased throughput of samples will increase the availability of time to external users.


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