Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre revamp - November 2022
Meteorites, pollinators, coastal engineering and sustainable fashion may on the face of it seem as though they have little in common.
However, what ties them together is they are all benefitting from a state-of-the-art and recently expanded facility at the University of Plymouth.
Over the past 18 months, the University has started investing more than £1.7million to enhance the Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre (PEMC).
It has expanded into new premises at the heart of the city centre campus and populated it with the latest cutting edge technology, doubling the number of microscopes from four to eight.
The new technology enables particles to be viewed at greater than one million times their actual size, meaning technicians can examine items not visible to the human eye in great detail. And the microscopes are already being used by researchers and businesses across sectors ranging from geology and mining to manufacturing and food.
They have helped University researchers to study the first meteorite to land in the UK for more than 30 years, and are being used weekly by University students in fields from marine biology to medicine and more.
Staff at the centre have also worked to engage more people in the possibilities presented by electron microscopy, including taking its new desktop microscope to events such as the Devon Business Show.
The work has been supported by a grant of around £1million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the third time PEMC has been awarded ERDF funding.
Dr Natasha Stephen, Director of the Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre, said:
“When we talk to people about electron microscopy, there is sometimes an initial sense that it isn’t relevant to them. However, when we explain the breadth of businesses and sectors we have worked in over the years – from nature to technology and all aspects of the circular economy – they quickly see how relevant it is across the board. This new and expanded centre presents us with the exciting opportunity to explore new collaborative research and engage even more businesses with its possibilities and potential. It will enable us also to use our facilities to address some of the greatest challenges facing our planet.”
Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre relaunch - November 2022
Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Archie Clements with staff from the Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre
The PEMC was established more than 30 years ago and, in that time, has worked with more than 700 companies in a wide range of sectors.
It has also been used by researchers and students at the University and been integral to influential research in subjects including geology, microplastics, medicine and product design.
The centre has also previously been recognised internationally as an outstanding example of how European funding has benefitted UK science and engineering research.
Building on the success off the Plymouth Materials Characterisation Project (PMCP), the new investment has also led to the creation of the Plymouth Materials Characterisation Network (PMCN).
It is continuing the centre’s work with businesses in Devon, and delivering a programme of knowledge exchange and technology transfer events, while also expanding the ability to use the facilities within PEMC to small and large companies right across the UK.
It has also created a network of industry, technical and academic experts meaning that potential clients are now able to benefit from the experiences of those already using electron microscopy in Plymouth.
Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre revamp - November 2022
Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre revamp - November 2022
Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre revamp - November 2022

Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre

Our flagship facility provides access to a comprehensive suite of light microscopes, electron microscopes (EM), image processing and analysis software, plus decades of experience from our team of specialists.

We support students, researchers, academics and businesses across a range of disciplines and sectors, from engineering and advanced manufacturing to geology, textiles, planetary science and beyond. 

Find out more about our work, and how we can help you with our state-of-the-art equipment

Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre

Plymouth Materials Characterisation Network (PMCN)

PMCN aims to build a self-sustaining network of researchers, technicians, industry experts, and academics who are familiar with and benefit from the use of electron microscopy (EM) in their day-to-day business. Any company wishing to utilise electron microscopy in their research and development can now access the equipment available at PEMC, along with benefitting from our technical expertise across a range of disciplines, between now and 2023, including SEM, TEM and FIB-SEM. Use is either free or heavily discounted, and companies of any size are now able to engage, though priority will be given to SMEs and those in the Devon region in the first instance.

Read more about the project, eligibility criteria and next steps

EBSD of metasomatised mantle rock