A Facility for Cryo-Enabled Multi-microscopy for Nanoscale Analysis in the Engineering and Physical Sciences (Cryo-EPS)

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Materials

Abstract

We are facing unprecedented global challenges around climate change, clean energy, water and sustainability - and these have, at their core, materials solutions. Critical materials for future technologies are often highly complex on multiple length scales, and hence extremely difficult to characterise with a single technique. They commonly involve low atomic weight, mobile elements (e.g. hydrogen, lithium, carbon, sulfur) that are the most challenging to quantitatively characterise in their in-operando state, due to their high rates of diffusion, reactivity and often very low contrast by conventional imaging techniques.
Examples of such materials systems include; materials for hydrogen production and storage, battery systems; catalysts to generate new fuels or facilitate decarbonation of industrial processes; interfaces between soft- and hard-matter relevant to hybrid electronics and 'soft' robotics; as well as liquids or liquid- solid interfaces that are critical across the whole engineering and physical sciences research space from geological carbon sequestration, to lubrication in engines, to chemistry and bioengineering.

We will create a world-leading cryo-EPS facility to act as a collaborative hub for research that will underpin the UK ambition for a net zero carbon future and a more sustainable society. It will enable the quantitative atomic to micro-scale investigation of light elements that are critical to a host of new technologies associated with a transition to a sustainable, resilient and healthy future society, providing new scientific insights that will drive technological innovation.

The equipment will enable the quantitative investigation of light elements across orders of magnitude in length scale - from the micron to the atomic scale, providing an unprecedented opportunity for a step change in our fundamental understanding of these materials structure and chemistry - and ultimately their behaviour
This facility will be based around a cryo hub that will allow samples to be transferred under high vacuum and at cryo conditions between three instruments (i) an atom probe, uniquely positioned to quantitively measure chemical composition of light mobile elements; (ii) a transmission electron microscope with a vacuum-cryo holder and optimised to measure the structure of sensitive samples and also their local bonding environment; (iii) a plasma FIB to allow samples to be prepared for both the atom probe and TEM which have both low contamination and also little damage, and able to perform large-scale 3D imaging.
The combination of these instruments will give the UK a powerful characterisation capability that is unique worldwide, putting UK scientists in a leading position to tackle important and urgent global challenges.

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