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2 July 2012
University of Nottingham to house world’s first liquid X-ray machine

The University of Nottingham will be the base for the world’s first Liquid Phase Photoelectron Spectroscopy (LiPPS) machine, a high performance tool that will increase the UK’s competitiveness in a range of high-value industrial sectors including semiconductors, aerospace, pharmaceuticals and automotives.



Funded by a £675,000 grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), LiPPS is a unique X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS) machine which allows researchers to take atomistic measurements of the surface of liquids for the first time. Current instrumentation in the XPS field allows only for the analysis of solid substances. LiPPS will be easier to operate, able to deal with a wider range of sample types and to acquire data autonomously.

The facility will open up an entirely new sector for the research community, generating new avenues for research and supporting training of early stage career researchers.

Business Secretary Vince Cable, who visited the University recently, said: “The excellent new LiPPS machine will be the first of its kind in the UK. It will help maintain The University of Nottingham’s leading position in nanotechnology research, which has a host of real world applications. The University’s close links with industry will enable businesses to tap into this knowledge and expertise, driving growth and innovation across a range of important sectors, including manufacturing.”

Through the provision of open access to industry LiPPS will provide a key service that could yield products within two to three years. The potential applications of this technique are vast. Solute composition and interfacial structure are dominant in a wide range of processes including catalysts and electrode-related systems. Insight into interfacial regions in these systems is crucial to the design of more efficient energy storage/conversion devices. It underpins our knowledge of solution-based processes including electroplating and polishing which are key to high tolerance engineering processes throughout the automotive and aeronautics industries.

Speaking about the LiPPS instrument, Professor David Greenaway, Vice-Chancellor of The University of Nottingham, said: “The University of Nottingham’s Nanotechnology and Nanoscience Centre is leading the way in nanotechnology research. We have a long history in the research and commercialisation of nanotechnologies and I am very pleased that EPSRC is providing significant funding to enable us to commission the production of the LiPPS machine.

“This new spectrometer will be an invaluable addition to our work in X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy and will ensure that our academic staff can continue their cutting edge work in this field.”

The University’s Dr Peter Licence and his team are credited with the discovery of ionic liquid-based surface science. Additionally, Emily Smith has been a key figure in the development of XPS instrumentation and is one of the few people in the world with the expertise to design and interpret experimental data in the context of liquid samples.

The announcement of the LiPPS instrument is the latest in a number of major initiatives that The University of Nottingham is undertaking in the field of nanotechnology. Just last month, the University and its spin-out business, Promethean Particles, secured a major EU nanotechnology research project with an overall value of €9.7 million. The project, known as SHYMAN (Sustainable Hydrothermal Manufacturing of Nanomaterials), will take place over the next four years and includes partner universities and businesses from 12 European countries.

Other universities, including Imperial College, York, Leicester and Queen’s University, Belfast will also benefit from the use of LiPPS.

For more information about The University of Nottingham’s work in nanotechnology, visit http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/nnnc/index.aspx.
 


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