Core Capital 2020

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Research Finance


An open invitation for proposals was circulated within the Faculties of Engineering and Science, highlighting nanomaterials as a priority topic. Proposals were reviewed and ranked by a panel of senior academics, composed of faculty research leads and leading nanomaterials researchers to ensure maximum reach and impact from this year's allocation. All pieces of equipment provide underpinning multi-user support for at least one of the University's materials priority areas, and some will support very large teams of researchers. Thus, the prioritised items promise to make sustained, positive impact across a broad swathe of research in materials in Sheffield for the next decade.

1. Supercontiuum Laser - will provide widely spectrally tunable laser light to three separate laboratories for studies of advanced organic and inorganic semiconducting nano-materials and novel photonic devices. The requested tunable laser system is anticipated to become an indispensable tool in day-to-day characterisation but it will also be an important exploration tool, enabling new materials to be tested using a multitude of optical spectroscopy methods outside the range of conventional fixed frequency lasers.

2. Small Angle X-ray Scattering (SAXS) beamline upgrades
This instrument is a vital tool for the structural characterisation of many types of nanomaterials spanning chemistry, physics, engineering and biology. The upgrades will significantly improve productivity of our SAXS instrument through improved sensitivity, reduced data acquisition times and an automatic sample changing facility.

3. Oxygen Plasma Cleaner
This equipment will support researchers working in a range of nanomaterial topics including polymers, thin and ultra thin films, nanocomposites, photonic materials, graphene and 2D materials, with wide-ranging applications including solar cells and antibiotics. It allows users to clean/etch organic contaminants and bio-films from substrates, promotes wetting, and can be used to selectively depth etch. Adhesion of layers can also be improved to promote bonding of thin layers to a substrate.

4. Scanning Electron Microscope
This instrument will underpin the full spectrum of materials science and engineering research across the Faculties of Science and Engineering. The equipment will perform basic electron imaging to nm resolution and X-ray compositional analysis. As such, and with a modern user friendly interface, the equipment will function as a work-horse instrument benefiting a large multidisciplinary user base relevant to the EPSRC research portfolio. It will replace an obsolete model and will have additional functionality to integrate different forms of imaging, stop accidental collision of instrumentation with the specimen, enable imaging of fine surface structures and specimens in their hydrated state.

5. Multifunction Tribometer
The multi-function tribometer is a versatile test machine for conducting tribological experiments. At its heart, two components can be loaded and rolled/slid against each other in a controlled manner. This can replicate the behaviour of materials in bearings, seals, pistons and valves, wheel/rail interface, shoe tread/floor contact, mechanical and human tissue joints, machining contacts, and metal forming manufacturing. This investment will enable research teams to explore surface changes in real time, have more control over experiments and test at scales useful for human tissue studies.


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