University of Exeter Core Equipment Award 2022

Lead Research Organisation: UNIVERSITY OF EXETER
Department Name: Biosciences


Maintaining cutting-edge research facilities and specialised technical support are central to the University of Exeter's strategy for providing an infrastructure which underpins world-leading (4*) research. Exeter has invested heavily in academic appointments and research facilities to increase the volume and quality of EPSRC facing research. The items of equipment requested in this proposal were selected via a strategic process for maintaining, upgrading and replacing key research assets that our EPSRC funded academics rely upon. The three items requested collectively greatly increase our capability in undertaking research in key EPSRC themes and areas.

E1: Sono-Cell SNR300 coating system

The Sono-Cell SNR300 ultrasonic spray coating technology can produce highly uniform nano-scale thin film coatings for a variety of applications. Research using the system will introduce a fast-processing platform for discovery and nanostructure-controlled fabrication of nanomaterials for range of applications including hydrogen production, hydrogen storage, thermal and electrical energy storage, solar energy conversion and building energy efficiency.
One of the major barriers in thin film coating technologies is obtaining uniformity in scale from very small coating area to much wider areas, and this new equipment will provide a solution to this barrier, with capabilities for even coating of substrate diameters up to 300n x 300 mm in a benchtop package. This is a versatile technique as it eliminates the stagnant and complex requirement of other physical and chemical fabrication techniques.

E2: Helium Leak Detection Equipment

The use of vacuum, gas and cryogenic apparatus is ubiquitous throughout science and technology, and the detection and repair of leaks is an essential aspect of its operation. As the smallest inert gas atom, Helium can find its way through the smallest of gaps and is widely used to find leaks. The requested Helium leak detector is connected to the system that is to be tested and then the suspect joint or seal is exposed to Helium gas from the outside. If a leak exists, the Helium atoms enter the system and pass into the leak detector. The leak detector can determine the amount of Helium present, and hence the scale of the leak, and will emit an audible signal so that a single operator can focus on applying the Helium gas without needing to look at the instrument display. The requested Helium sniffer operates the other way around. Helium gas is bled into the suspect pipes or vessel and the sniffer is used to detect the Helium gas that escapes through the leak.

E3: Vector Network Analyser (VNA)

Vector Network Analysers (VNA) are workhorses of antenna measurements and material characterisation in the RF and mm-wave bands, enabling the direct measurement of the amplitude and phase of electromagnetic waves. This new VNA will enable measurements at higher frequencies, up to 110 GHz, enabling research in new application areas in the increasingly technologically important mm-wave frequency band. For example, 6G communications have been allocated to frequencies >90 GHz, whilst automotive radar systems operate between 76 and 81 GHz for adaptive cruise control / collision avoidance (and is one aspect of the technologies used in so-called self-driving cars). Mm-waves are also being employed in high-resolution security scanners and high data capacity inter-satellite communications and will likely be used in next generation medical imaging applications.


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