Core Equipment at the University of Leeds

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Electronic and Electrical Engineering

Abstract

The Bragg Centre for Materials Research at the University of Leeds is part of the £100M University investment in the new Sir William Henry Bragg Building, which will also provide new accommodation for the Schools of Computing and Physics & Astronomy, and co-locate all Schools in engineering and the physical sciences on campus. The Centre aims to discover, create, characterize, and exploit materials engineered at the atomic and molecular level, and brings together the fundamental understanding, design, modelling and fabrication of materials with their exploitation in new devices, systems and applications, underpinning 21st century challenges across the physical sciences, engineering and life sciences. The Centre's research is focused around six broad themes, which align with critical mass research groupings within the University: Analytical Science, Bionanotechnology, Electronic and Photonic Materials, Functional Surfaces, Multiscale Materials, and Soft Matter. Each is underpinned by modelling and simulation, and is supported by internationally-leading experimental facilities.

The Centre nurtures a vibrant interdisciplinary community of internationally-renowned, inspirational academics to deliver its ambitious research priorities and aspirations, and to support the long-term needs of UK industry to deliver societal and economic impact. It also provides a focus for the University's activities within the Henry Royce Institute (https://www.royce.ac.uk), of which it is a Founding Partner.

This EPSRC Capital Award for Core Equipment will expand and upgrade the equipment base within the Bragg Centre, and help support researchers from across the engineering and physical sciences, and especially benefit early career researchers. It focusses on research areas of national importance in materials science, where Leeds is demonstrably internationally leading for quality and distinctiveness, and has a critical mass of academic staff, funding and infrastructure. This will enure that the investment made through this programme underpins scientific and engineering excellence, and aligns with long-term research programmes that are both strategic to the university and the UK, and receive on-going university investment.

The award will provide new capacity and capability to research teams. First, the existing X-Ray Diffractometer facility at Leeds will be refreshed and improved through purchase of a new state-of-the-art diffractometer system. Second, a small number of items of dedicated equipment will be purchased that complement existing University infrastructure:

(a) a highly flexible, research grade MALDI TOF mass spectrometer, including a near-axis 50 Hz variable repetition rate N2 laser irradiation source, and capabilities to cover a wide mass range, deconvolute structural fragments, and use flexible target formats.

(b) a 3D Optical Surface Profiling System, including an LED high brightness light source, a 5 Megapixel image sensor, interferometric objective lenses with varying magnifications, high specification control computer, and data acquisition software.

(c) a reflectometer with a 400-1700 nm light source, integrated CCD sample imaging system, Si array detection spectrometer, data capture and analysis software, xyz translation stages, and thin-film and reflectivity reference samples.

(d) a chemical megasonic cleaning station, including a two-tank configuration, transducer array for direct coupling of acoustic energy, RF generator and amplifier, and microprocessor-controlled recipe management.

All equipment funded through this award will be integrated into well-found laboratories, which already have extensive user bases across Schools and Faculties. This will enable efficient utilization, and a capitalization, of the investment from the outset. Equipment will also be promoted and available for use by academia outside the University and industry.

Planned Impact

The University of Leeds has a longstanding track record of translating research to industrial end-users though direct collaboration, licencing of IP, and spin-out, forming a proven model for future translational activity. In the area of biomaterials, this includes the development of ceramic-on-ceramic, and ceramic-on-metal hip joints, which have been commercialized with 100,000s of units now implanted internationally. Industrial end-users and strategic partners include: DePuySynthes, Invibio, Mathys, Tissue Regenix Group, Corin, JRI and Biocomposites. Furthermore, regenerative biological scaffolds have been translated through AIM listed spin-out Tissue Regenix with a market capitalization of £70M. In ferroelectrics, the Leeds spinout Ionix Advanced Technologies specialises in high performance, extreme environment piezoelectric devices and materials, offering a range of sensors, actuators and transduces based on its novel piezoelectric materials, with applications in areas such as condition monitoring and flow measurement in extreme environments. In developing spintronic materials, the University maintains and develops industrial partnerships through EPSRC and EU-funded research collaborations including with the Hitachi Cambridge Laboratory, Seagate, Intel & IBM Zurich, and has links through EU projects with companies such as Aivon, Attocube, Singulus, Sensitec, Novotechnik, Omicron, Hitachi, IBM, involving co-supervision and/or secondments of researchers with knowledge transfer activities. Using electron microscopy and other analytical techniques, the University collaborates with companies such as Akzo, AZ, BNFL, Eli Lilly, GSK, Henkel, Infineum, Merck Chemicals, MSD, Nestle, Pfizer, P&G, Syngenta, and Sellafield.

This new underpinning equipment will strengthen these existing commercial collaborations, but also enable development of new opportunities, which will be pursued through dedicated Bragg Centre 'Research and Innovation' Managers, the Henry Royce Intitute, and through Nexus - the University's new Innovation and Enterprise Centre. Nexus will help stimulate further collaboration between external companies, public and private organizations, and the university. It also significantly increases our physical accommodation for technology-led company incubation, with an active business incubation programme.

To support the promotion of the University's materials research equipment and knowledge base, and especially to industry, the University of Leeds developed the N8 Research Partnership equipment sharing database (http://www.n8equipment.org.uk). New equipment is promoted to external users both through this site, and the Royce Institute's database (https://www.royce.ac.uk/equipment-and-facilities/).
The University also actively promotes its expertise through, for example, the Knowledge Transfer Network, and will be presenting its materials capabilities at events such as Materials Research Exchange 2020 (https://ktn-uk.co.uk/events/live-materials-research-exchange-2020).

Publications

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