New Tools for Nanometrology

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Chemistry


Funds are sought to establish a new UK research capacity that will address key challenges in the development of innovative tools for nanoscale characterisation and metrology. The initiative will be based at the London Centre for Nanotechology (LCN), a joint venture between Imperial College London and University College London, and will help establish an internationally competitive multi-disciplinary activity with strong critical mass at two of the UK's leading research universities. Our programme will deliver high impact fundamental science and will lead to the development of new techniques capable of quantifying target properties with appropriate spatial and temporal resolution.


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Description This grant was a science and innovation award developing new tools for nanotechnology.This Science and Innovation award facilitated the establishment of new UK research capacity addressing key challenges in the development of innovative tools for nanoscale characterisation and metrology. The initiative was based at the London Centre for Nanotechology (LCN), a joint venture between Imperial College London and University College London. The programme has delivered high impact fundamental science leading to the development of new techniques capable of quantifying target properties with appropriate spatial and temporal resolution.

The following reports the Key Findings listed by researcher employed on the grant at Imperial College.

Dr Alison Harrison 28-08-2007 to 20-04-2008

Dr Alison Harrison was one of the first S&I appointees and she worked to develop the hardware infrastructure necessary for the development of her research programme in the area of electron holography of functional materials. Sadegh Yazdi with the assistance of Dr Robb completed extensive experiments on the development of in-situ biasing holders for electron holography enabling the development of a facility which was used to study working transistor structures in real time using electron holography. By using off-axis electron holography, in principle, the electrostatic potential can be mapped quantitatively with atomic spatial resolution and better than few tens of millivolts sensitivity under actual electrical biasing conditions.

The practical challenges involved in the application of electron holography to the measurement of electrostatic potentials in working MOSFET transistors were addressed and three main issues hampering quantitative electron holography of semiconductor devices have been addressed by investigating FIB prepared MOSFET devices.

Dr Alexandra Porter 01-10-2008 to 31-07-2010
Application of analytical and three dimensional electron microscopy techniques, to investigate challenging problems at the interface between tissues (organics) and nano/ biomaterials (inorganics), to answer both fundamental and applied questions at the interface between biology, medicine and materials science
Nanotoxicology: We have performed detailed characterisations to relate the physicochemical properties of zinc oxide, carbon and hydroxyapatite nanomaterials (ENMs) to their reactivity with proteins, cells and tissues. Our aim was to assess how these ENMs are internalised and processed by cells, and whether they are transformed in the extracellular matrix or by the action of the cell. We developed a multi-scale correlative microscopy approach, combining imaging and analytical techniques across length scales to assess which cells within the tissues are targeted, whether the particles corrode within tissues and whether these processes can be correlated to changes in cell metabolism or health.
Impact: The results of this work lead to two collaborative proposals between Imperial College and Rutgers University (USA) being funded by the NIH and NERC both >1M and an ERC starting grant for AP (valued at euros 1.15M).

Neurodegenerative Diseases Amyloid structures play a central role in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative conditions. A key aspect of understanding the origins of these conditions is to define the manner in which specific types of protein aggregates interact with cells. We have developed a methodology to detect and track amyloid beta inside cells with a spatial resolution of 5-10 nm. These observations shed new light on the origins of their differential toxicity which could enhance significantly our understanding the progression of neurodegenerative disorders.
Impact These results have led to a partnership with Elan Pharmaceutical to develop drugs against these diseases and an invited talk at the M&M microscopy meeting, USA 2012.

Bone Regeneration and bone disease We have used high resolution analytical electron microscopy techniques to develop a fundamental understanding of the mechanisms by which bone forms and of pathological mineralization using different disease models.
Impact Insights generated by this research have important implications for understanding aetiology of pathological mineralisation processes, such as the formation atherosclerotic plaques and ectopic bone which can be used to guide treatment of pathological mineralization. This work led to a plenary talk for the Materials Today, Frontiers of Microscopy conference and a keynote talk at the Irish Microscopy Society meeting, 2012.

Solveig Felton was employed on the S&I grant as a temporary lecturer from 01-01-11 to 28-02-13. Solveig Felton was subsequently awarded a permanent lectureship position at Queen's Belfast when she left Imperial. Without the position enabled by the S&I grant she would not have been in a position to secure this position.

The objective of the work was to apply Lorentz imaging on the Imperial Titan to study magnetic microstructure in scientifically interesting samples. The Lorentz imaging is now fully functional on the Titan and we have performed imaging on 3D artificial spin ice structures, work that is currently being written up.

Prof Stefan Maier Employed on the grant from 2007 to 2013
Summary of objectives, outcome, impact:

Built up an experimental nanoplasmonics group out of the nucleus of S&I funded postdoc Dr. Yannick Sonnefraud and PhD student Dangyuan Lei (oversea element supported by Imperial's Rector's Award)

Main scientific outcomes: development and demonstration of the concept of plasmonic Fano resonances, new thin-film nanometrology paradigm based on hybrid plasmonic/photonic resonances, concept of transformation optics, limits of plasmonic field enhancement set by non-local materials properties, demonstration of loss compensation in plasmonic systems, development of EELS methodology for the assessment of plasmonic resonances in complex nanocluster systems

At the end date of award, group count is 28 people; Dangyuan Lei Professor at Hong Kong Poly, Yannick Sonnefraud Leverhulme fellow in the group (move to CNRS position in Grenoble end of 2012)

Group attracted two major awards (programme grant on active plasmonics with King's College, Leverhulme Award for Metamaterials with John Pendry); plus a number of smaller EPSRC grants, US money, FP7

Sackler Prize, IOP Paterson Medal, OSA Fellowship, Wolfson Research Merit for Maier
• Departmental thesis prize for Lei
• Translation/industry involvement: one PhD studentship sponsored by Witec on probe-based nanophotonics; established ESF network in plasmonic bionanosensing (Maier as chair, Euro 500k 2010-2015,; plasmonic solar cell project with German company AzurSpace started during FP7 project, ongoing after end of project;
Exploitation Route The outcomes of the Sand I grant are quite diverse but they have laid the groundwork for new techniques and tools in the area of nanoimaging, nanoplasmonics and nano optoelectronics. They have also enabled the funding of a CDT in Advanced Characterisation jointly delivered through Imperial College and UCL. The S and I grant provided the infrastructure for the CDT and also strengthened the academic linkage between the two universities.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)



Description The grant enabled the development of an ac calorimeter which has since transferred to the company Cryogenics. This was used as a REF impact case study by the department for the last REF submission 2014. We used the correlative methodologies we developed (and are still developing) on the S and I grant to help to put together a successful proposal for the CDT in Advanced Characterisation of Materials (2014). The CDT has lots of links to industry including Shell, Proctor and Gamble, Lloyds Register Foundation, BP. The methodologies developed during this grant has enabled the teams involved to go on to secure funding in a number of parallel areas - such as programme grants EP/M013812/1 (2015) in the area of reactive plasmonics and EP/V001914/1 (2021) nanoscale advanced engineering.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Education,Other
Impact Types Societal

Description Assessing the risks of 2D nanomaterials in the environment
Amount £50,000 (GBP)
Organisation Lloyd's Register 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2017 
End 09/2021
Description Characterisation of engineered nanoparticle impacted sewage waters 
Organisation University of Birmingham
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The objective was to quantify the lifetime and characterise the physiochemical characteristics of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) as they reach the environment through wastewater treatment plants (WWTP), specifically as they partition between 1) water, wastewater, sludge and soil and 2) effluent and freshwater. The nanomaterials of interest were CeO2, ZnO, TiO2 and Ag. We worked with the FENAC facility in Birmingham to perform field flow fractionation (FFF) to isolate the nano-scale (~100 nm) portion of the samples of engineered nanomaterials in soils and sediments. We also performed single particle ICP-MS to detect the particles within these media. We provided samples and scientific questions.
Collaborator Contribution They supplied instrumentation (FFF) and single particle ICP-MS facilities.
Impact None yet.
Start Year 2017