PEPR - A centre for Pulse Electron Paramagnetic Resonance spectroscopy at Imperial College

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Dept of Chemistry


Unpaired electrons play vital roles in e.g. respiration and photosynthesis, are associated with human diseases including cancer and Alzheimer's disease and are at the basis of the modern computer and many industrially used catalysts. We propose to set up a new research facility at Imperial College London which employs a powerful technique called ulse Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR) spectroscopy, to identify and characterise such unpaired electrons (free radicals) and gain detailed insight into the structure and dynamics of paramagnetic compounds. The facility (PEPR) will therefore contribute to solving grand, societal challenges such as healthy aging, sustainable energy generation and storage, greener and more effective catalytic solutions for chemical manufacturing and developing a new generation of electronic devices.

PEPR will encompass state-of-the-art pulse EPR instrumentation and in partnership with University College London we will develop new instrumentation and methodology to push the boundaries of what is possible with EPR today and widen the applications of this already extremely versatile technique. We will do this by combining EPR spectroscopy with electrochemistry, a powerful method for investigating oxidation-reduction processes that often lie at the heart of systems with unpaired electrons and by enabling pulse EPR investigations of paramagnetic compounds that cannot be accumulated in sufficiently large quantities to be studied with current commercially-available instrumentation. PEPR will therefore bring new capabilities to the UK, build on the existing research strengths and infrastructure at Imperial College and engage new academic users and research centres across London, regionally and UK-wide.

The research facilitated by PEPR will have an immediate impact on UK science, with academic beneficiaries in a diverse range of research disciplines, and a significant people-pipeline through the many affiliated PhD students and PDRAs. Moreover, the facility's location at Imperial College's newly-established and growing innovation campus at White City provides a unique opportunity to encourage academia and industry to collaborate more closely on common, global challenges. Access to the wider community will be provided through outreach events such as the Great Exhibition Road Festival and the Imperial Lates, as well as by including the facility into the tours that are already taking place regularly in the Molecular Sciences Research Hub where PEPR will be located.

Planned Impact

We propose to create an internationally-renowned research facility (PEPR) that enables the elucidation and exploitation of unpaired electrons across a wide range of disciplines, building on existing research strengths at Imperial College and beyond:

The study of unpaired electrons has already had an impact on our society on many levels, such as in IT and communication (e.g. the modern computer) and in our fundamental understanding of the mechanisms of enzymes underpinning disease or bioinspired technology. PEPR will contribute to what may be some of the next breakthroughs, such as quantum computing, artificial photosynthesis and green and efficient energy production and storage. We will capitalise on the existing research strengths at Imperial College across Chemistry, Physics, Life Sciences, Engineering, Medicine and Materials Sciences, such as in e.g. catalysis, battery research and protein biophysics. The unique combination of state-of-the-art pulse EPR techniques with electrochemistry and instrument development to push the boundaries of signal to noise and trap previously elusive paramagnetic intermediates will enable new and unprecedented approaches and insights into these diverse research areas and address some of the EPSRC-aligned Grand Challenges in Quantum Physics for New Quantum Technologies, Nanoscale Design of Functional Materials, Understanding the Physics of Life, Directed Assembly of Extended Structures with Targeted Properties, Systems Chemistry: Exploring the Chemical Roots of Biological Organisation.

The research to be carried out at PEPR underpins at least 13 CDTs and spans nearly 80 research groups at Imperial, London-wide, regionally, UK-wide and internationally. In addition to the outcome of a highly skilled and trained researcher working across all areas of science (PEPR's facility manager), PEPR will thus have a significant impact on people and hence on the next generation of scientists and engineers. By opening up PEPR to the wider community (up to 30% external usage) we will further extend the impact of the facility. This is especially true given PEPR's location in a multidisciplinary research building adjoining the Translation and Innovation Hub where emergent SMEs (e.g. Polymateria) are already engaging in collaborative opportunities, in additional to large companies (e.g. Shell). Imperial has an excellent track-record in working with industry and any relevant IP will be managed via well-established routes for technology translation through Imperial's Industry Partnership and Commercialisation team. Dedicated and expert support through the facility manager and the scientifically diverse management team will ensure that new users will get the most out of their experiments at PEPR.

Publication, presentation, lunchtime seminars and engagement innovation activities at White City (e.g. with Upstream, a partnership between Hammersmith & Fulham Council and Imperial College London) will ensure that the impact generated through access to PEPR is disseminated effectively and without delay. Our symposium in year 4 will draw experts, in academia and industry, and further publicise the work of PEPR on an international level. We will engage in numerous outreach opportunities at Imperial including the Great Exhibition Road Festival (targeting all ages) and the Imperial Lates (for adults) where the PEPR management team already have an existing track record.


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