£1.7m to build world's first SIMS instrument combined with infra-red spectroscopy

September 27, 2005

The University of Manchester has been awarded £1.7m to build a new instrument which will for the first time combine ToF-SIMS and infrared spectroscopy opening up new possibilities in the study biological, organic and inorganic materials.

The capabilities of the instrument, which is expected to be built within two years, will be tested on materials such as prostate cancer tissue and environmental particulate pollutants.

The new instrument will enable surface and bulk analysis to be carried out simultaneously by combining SIMS surface analysis with infrared spectroscopy.

The project, which will span a four year period, is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and will be carried out in collaboration with the University of Surrey and Penn State University, USA.

The Principal Investigator, Professor John Vickerman, Director of the Surface Analysis Research Centre, said: "This project is an exciting example of how high-level fundamental research will be exploited for the construction a novel instrument that can then be used for vital medical or environmental research. By combining this capability with infra-red spectroscopy we will be able to get a much fuller picture of the chemistry of the molecules and materials we are studying."

ToF-SIMS and infra-red spectroscopy have already been used to probe prostate cancer tissue in a separate project within the University's School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Sciences. Co-investigators Dr Peter Gardner and Dr Nick Lockyer, in collaboration with scientists and clinicians at the CRUK Paterson Institute, have been applying IR spectroscopy and ToF-SIMS in the field of prostate cancer research for several years.

Peter Gardner, said: "IR spectroscopy has proved a highly successful tool for diagnosing and monitoring a range of diseases, including prostate cancer". Nick Lockyer added; "The application of ToF-SIMS in cancer studies is extremely novel and this unique machine will allow us the new insights at the molecular level"

Environmental studies will also exploit the unique capabilities of the new instrument and will focus on investigating the surface chemistry of various types of particles found in the atmosphere, with specific interest in the uptake and transformation of small atmospheric molecules on solid particles. These fundamental processes undoubtedly affect the role of such particles in global climate change.

Co-investigator Dr Andrew Horn, said: "This is a considerable step forward in advanced, chemically resolved instrumentation. Over the past 10 years, we have demonstrated the complementarity of SIMS and IR spectroscopy through applications in a number of areas. The instrumentation and methods developed in this project will have significantly wider applications in physical and materials science in the longer term as well. This project is an excellent example of collaborative, multidisciplinary work between research groups within the University of Manchester."

Professor Vickerman, added: "If we can produce a machine which can simultaneously analyse the same sample of materials using SIMS and infrared spectroscopy it will be a world first for Manchester."
-end-
For further information:

Simon Hunter, Media Relations Officer, telephone: 0161 2768387 or email: simon.hunter@manchester.ac.uk

Notes to Editors:

  • Professor John Vickerman is Director of the Surface Analysis Research Centre within the University of Manchester's School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science which is part of the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences.

  • Dr Peter Gardner is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science. Dr Nick Lockyer is a Lecturer in the School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science. Dr Andrew Horn is a Reader in the School of Chemistry and an EPSRC Advanced Research Fellow.

  • Secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) enables the surface chemistry of materials to be analysed, by bombarding the surface with a high energy beam of particles. In a billiard ball type process atoms and molecules are ejected from the surface and their chemistry is analysed using a mass spectrometer. The bombarding beam can be highly focussed enabling chemical maps of the surface to be built up at high magnification - a type of chemical microscopy.

  • Research at the Surface Analysis Research Centre has recently shown that the use of C60, the football shaped (so-called bucky ball) molecules discovered by the Nobel Prize winner Sir Harry Kroto, as the bombarding beam enables big molecules to be removed safely from virtually any type of material. This knowledge gained from this research will be directly applied to the design and construction of the new instrument.

  • Infrared spectroscopy selectively measures the various kinds of coupled vibrational motions of atoms in molecules. The frequency-dependent patterns observed (spectra) are characteristic of the chemical species from which they originate, thus allowing the composition of a sample to be measured. IR methods generally probe both bulk and surfaces properties when samples are (semi)transparent at typical IR wavelengths. Being inherently less surface sensitive than SIMS, information about the bulk and surface composition can be obtained.

    University of Manchester

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