Multi-User Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) Core Equipment

Lead Research Organisation: University of Ulster
Department Name: School of Engineering


The multi-user Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) instrument to be purchased via this capital award allocation will replace and enhance a key element of the characterisation facilities within the School of
Engineering, Ulster University that is critical for the study of range of materials at the nanoscale, including functional biomaterials, solar energy materials, sensor materials for Ocean research, nanoparticle drug delivery systems and advanced composite materials. It will underpin an array of sophisticated modern World Class Lab standard equipment including Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM), X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS) and Time-of-Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry.

The main academic user community for the AFM instrument at Ulster University is well established and the technique is already seen as a core facility for the generation of highly impactful research. Hence, the availability of a modern, state-of-the-art AFM instrument will directly impact on enhancing the quality of research outputs by the provision of data that breaks new ground regarding how material properties effect their function and subsequent application. In this regard, AFM is seen as an essential core research facility within a well-founded laboratory in order for Ulster University to be competitive in securing highly competitive Quality-related Research (QR) funding.

The need for such an instrument is not limited to academic activities and this capital purchase will also significantly enhance our R&D support for indigenous industry as well as helping to attract foreign direct investment to Northern Ireland (NI) by making available resources that major companies locating here would expect to be available within the University sector. The research capabilities of Ulster University are then a major part of our inward investment offering, as indicated by Invest NI (

The NI (draft) Programme for Government (2016-21) has, as one of its central goals, the need to "improve wellbeing for all by tackling disadvantage, and driving economic growth". In this regard, it is recognised that the region will only prosper through a strong, competitive, balanced economy. It is also widely recognised that the University Sector in Northern Ireland contributes substantively to economic growth via the provision of a skilled workforce and the critical input it makes to Research & Development. As indicated, the latter activities support both indigenous industry and those overseas companies who locate here due to availability of a skilled workforce and access to world class resources.


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