New microscope boost for UK nanotechnology research

December 14, 2004

A powerful new microscope, currently available only in three universities in Europe and the USA, will position Britain as a leading centre for nanomaterials, researchers announce today.

The ultra-high performance analytical electron microscope (AEM) will support research programmes at the London Centre for Nanotechnology (LCN), an interdisciplinary collaboration between Imperial College London and University College London.

It will provide researchers with extremely high resolution imaging capabilities at resolutions of 0.14 nanometers. The AEM can also analyse materials and give information on the local composition, bonding environment and electronic state of the atoms. Researchers hope this will give them new insights into the complex interrelationships between the atomic arrangement of a material and the properties and performance of a device made from it.

Dr David McComb of the Department of Materials at Imperial, who is leading the project, explains: "The detailed analysis this instrument will enable is essential if UK industry is to play a leading role in developing advanced materials for technological applications."

Research will focus on projects in fuel cell research, magnetic nanostructures, smart coatings, semiconductor quantum dots and biomedical research.

"These projects share a common need for as complete a description as possible of the structure of interfaces, boundaries and defects - ideally on the atomic scale," says Dr McComb.

Professor Mike Horton, Director of the Bone and Mineral Centre at UCL, adds: "Medicine is a great example of an area benefiting hugely from advances in nanotechnology. The AEM will greatly enhance our capacity to understand, for instance, the processes that directly influence the development of osteoporosis and neurodegenerative disease in an ageing population."

Tim Jones, Professor of Chemistry at Imperial and joint director of the LCN, says: "The ability to measure structure and properties at very localised scales is a primary driver of progress in nanoscience, nanomaterials and nanotechnology. This facility will further consolidate the position of the LCN as a world leading centre for research of this type."

Dr McComb adds: "Currently this type of instrument is only available at three universities in Europe and the US. It is hugely exciting that it will now be installed at Imperial to support nanotechnology research throughout London."

The AEM will be funded by a £2.4m grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The award also includes four year funding for a post-doctoral research associate and a technician, both based at Imperial.
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Notes to editors:

About the London Centre for Nanotechnology

The London Centre for Nanotechnology is a joint enterprise between University College London and Imperial College London. In bringing together world-class infrastructure and leading nanotechnology research activities, the Centre aims to attain the critical mass to compete with the best facilities abroad. Furthermore by acting as a bridge between the biomedical, physical, chemical and engineering sciences the Centre will cross the 'chip-to-cell interface' - an essential step if the UK is to remain internationally competitive in biotechnology. Website: www.london-nano.ucl.ac.uk

About University College London

Founded in 1826, UCL is the Sunday Times University of the Year 2004 and the fourth-ranked UK university in the top 500 world universities for 2004 league table produced by the Shanghai Jiao Tong University. In the government's most recent Research Assessment Exercise, 59 UCL departments achieved top ratings of 5* and 5, indicating research quality of international excellence. In October 2004 UCL launched Advancing London's Global University - the Campaign for UCL, a strategic plan to provide the university with the resources to develop a range of ground-breaking new projects, while reinforcing London's status as one of the world's great centres of knowledge. The Campaign seeks to raise £300 million over the coming decade.

About Imperial College London

Consistently rated in the top three UK university institutions, Imperial College London is a world leading science-based university whose reputation for excellence in teaching and research attracts students (11,000) and staff (6,000) of the highest international quality. Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and management and delivers practical solutions that enhance the quality of life and the environment - underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture. Website: www.imperial.ac.uk

Imperial College London

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