Supporting World-Class Labs at the University of Manchester (2022)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: The Research Office


Since its creation in 2004, the University of Manchester has focussed on building its reputation for world-class research, and has risen rapidly in world university league tables. It now ranks within the top 35 institutions in the world. Our stated aim is to to provide state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, and pioneer arrangements for their more efficient use, including sharing.

Now we propose to use our EPSRC Capital Award for Core Equipment to support researchers in the Faculty of Science and Engineering and Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Sciences, by providing state-of-the-art equipment in fields aligned with University of Manchester strategic priorities. Following a round of competitive bidding, the projects we have chosen for investment are:

- a high-pressure universal materials testing machine equipment with an environmental chamber capable of heating to 600 degC and cooling to minus 150 degC. Mechanical testing is an essential capability for structural materials research, and this new machine will be used to test all materials from advanced alloys through to polymers and composites, including concrete. Physicists, materials scientists, mechanical and civil engineers all rely on mechanical testing in their research.

- a temperature-controlled environmental triaxial automated system. Understanding the effects of changing temperature and relative humidity on the behaviour of soil and soft rocks is an important consideration for the design of critical infrastructure drawing the attention of scientists and engineers due to the wider impacts of climatic changes and extreme weathers. Such considerations have become critical for developing disaster management strategies and providing critical infrastructures with improved resilience.

- a plasma glow discharging unit that will be utilised for the cleaning and surface preparation of grids used for 'mounting' cryogenic electron microscopy samples. Operated in a partial vacuum plasma which contains a controllable blend of gases, this can affect the surface properties of a carbon grid immediately before preparation. For example, Argon changes the surface charge, while Hydrogen and Oxygen react and form a plasma Hydrogen Peroxide. Every sample has a unique physical behaviour and having multiple ways of preparing grids is the most efficient way to address quality and speed up throughput from the facility.

- a single-photon detection system that is essential for the development of new materials and devices that rely on quantum effects to provide enhanced functionality. The world is entering a new phase of quantum technology development which promises to transform our lives through the ability to sense our environment to ever more sensitive levels and through quantum computers enable drug discovery like never before. Realising these new quantum technologies depend upon the development of materials designed specifically for this purpose such as the single photon (light particle) emitting materials that this system will study.

Overall, these investments support our world-class laboratories provision to researchers at Manchester, and from beyond who access them, and in particular ensure they are able to deliver internationally leading research. Within this proposal we have specifically supported our Early Career Researchers and Research Technical Specialist communities through their direct inclusion in the proposal preparation and leadership.


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