XPS and X-ray tomography at the University of Glasgow

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: College of Science and Engineering


We propose to purchase two items of equipment that together will allow detailed characterisation of a range of functional materials from the inside out, to underpin the development of the next generation of materials for energy, electronics, biomedical engineering and manufacturing.
Firstly, we will install X-Ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS) equipment to allow the composition and bonding of elements on a material's surface to be determined. The XPS system we plan to install will include an inert atmosphere sample transporter allowing air-sensitive samples to be transported from a glove box to the spectrometer without being exposed to ambient conditions. Controlled in-situ heating and cooling will allow research into the effects of thermal stresses on materials during analysis, whilst a fully automated sample transfer system will allow high sample throughput, driving down the cost per sample to users. A gas cluster ion source will be fitted for depth profiling of organic and inorganic multilayer thin films. Importantly, the XPS system will also have the ability to study surfaces as a function of applied voltage (of vital importance to battery research, and a capability in which the UK currently lacks adequate capacity). Currently, there is no academic-accessible XPS system anywhere in the UK north of Newcastle and (as our letters of support show), there is considerable demand for this technique from potential users across Scotland and the North of England.
The second item of equipment will be a high-resolution 3D X-ray tomography microscope. This machine uses X-rays to look (non-destructively) inside materials to create cross-sections and virtual 3D models at submicron resolution and across a large variety of sample types and sizes. It is thus complementary to XPS (which looks primarily at surfaces) by allowing characterisation of materials' interiors. There is currently no system with 500 nm (or better) resolution in the UK north of the Sheffield-Manchester-Liverpool axis, and again, our letters of support indicate significant demand for such capability to support research within EPSRC's remit in the north of the UK.
Our overall vision is that these machines are used as widely as possible, not only within the University of Glasgow but also across Scotland and the North of England. Our approach is highly collaborative, cooperating with, learning from, and supporting the EPSRC National Facilities in XPS and X-ray tomography. To facilitate access and sustainability, the instruments will not be housed in any particular academic's laboratory at Glasgow but in a central facility with dedicated Research Technical Professional support for instrument operation, management, user training and as a point of contact for internal and external users. Co-locating XPS and X-ray tomography under one roof will hold advantages for reducing sample analysis lead times and improving data integrity (e.g. for air sensitive samples) for the characterisation of solid state materials across the length scales. Without access to such equipment, limited capacity for XPS and high resolution X-ray tomography in the north of the UK will continue to stifle research in catalysis, energy, materials, biomedical engineering and manufacturing technologies and could leave UK researchers internationally uncompetitive in the race for next-generation energy storage devices such as sodium batteries.


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