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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R043337/1
Title: University of Leeds AFM Facility
Principal Investigator: Connell, Dr SDA
Other Investigators:
Thomson, Dr NH
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Physics and Astronomy
Organisation: University of Leeds
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 August 2018 Ends: 31 July 2020 Value (£): 136,770
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Biomaterials Complex fluids & soft solids
Condensed Matter Physics Materials Characterisation
Med.Instrument.Device& Equip.
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Food and Drink
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
13 Mar 2018 EPSRC Strategic Equipment Interview Panel March 2018 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
This funding provides a dedicated facility manager for the atomic force microscope (AFM) facility situated within the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leeds. The two year grant will enable us to recruit a technical specialist in the applications of AFM after which this experimental officer post will be sustainably funded through consolidation of existing research projects and pump priming of new collaborations. The high quality science that this facility generates across a wide range of different research fields will allow us to recover the true costs of operating the facility via a combination of grant funding and industrial collaboration. The role of the facility manager will be to oversee the efficient day-to-day running of the suite of seven state-of-the-art AFMs.

AFM is a versatile high resolution surface scanning microscopy that can produce topographical and mechanical maps for a wide range of hard and soft materials. It uses a sharp probe, nanometres in radius, to scan across surfaces to produce images with resolution down to the atomic scale. The probe is mounted on a force sensing flexible cantilever spring that can measure the mechanics of materials and molecules to sub-piconewton accuracy. AFM can operate in vacuum, liquid and air environments making it highly suited as an analytical technique for studying a wide range of materials under different conditions. The facility contains instruments that are optimised for high resolution imaging, sensitive and accurate force measurement, high throughput and high speed imaging and a new combined instrument platform integrating AFM with advanced optical microscopy techniques.

The versatility of AFM means it is a critical instrument to enable high quality nanoscience, nanotechnology, soft condensed matter, advanced and functional materials research. Examples of collaborative interdisciplinary research carried out in the facility include: magnetic nanostructures, magnetic spin-ice, skyrmions, crystallisation, synthetic polymers, biomembranes, food nanomechanics, single biomolecule mechanics, therapeutic microbubbles, DNA origami nanostructures, nanoparticles, anti-cancer peptides and biomaterials. These topics relate to research and development of applications within: data storage, data integrity, green energy generation, energy storage, oil recovery, drug delivery, drug formulation, catalysis, biomineralization, anti-cancer agents, hydrogels, tissue engineering, food science and textile development.

We expect the new post to augment impact of UK science within Physics, Chemistry, Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Electronic Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Biomedicine, Biological Sciences, Earth and Environment, Food Sciences and Dentistry.

Current research from the facility falls within the EPSRC themes of Physical Science, Engineering, Manufacturing the Future and Healthcare Technologies. Specific research areas include: Biophysics and soft matter, biomaterials and tissue engineering, magnetism and magnetic materials, spintronics, polymer materials, particle technology, surface science and synthetic biology. The multi-disciplinary research relates to Grand Challenges in: Physics of Life, Physics far from Equilibrium, Nanoscale design of functional materials and Healthcare technologies - developing future therapies. The activities that the facility supports align with the EPSRC Balancing Capabilities strategy since it covers such abroad range of research within the Physical Sciences and Engineering, producing high impact research of societal importance.

Twenty-first century society will be built on understanding and controlling material down to the nanometre scale. AFM is a key tool for characterising and manipulating materials at the nanoscale, be they natural, bioinspired or synthesised. The Leeds AFM facility can make a significant impact across a wide range of important scientific challenges.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.leeds.ac.uk