Million pound electron microscope to focus upon new university-industry collaboration

The University of Plymouth has been awarded funding in excess of £1.7m for a new project that will enable industry in the South West to use its electron microscopes for research and product development in partnership with University academics.

The Plymouth Materials Characterisation Project (PMCP) will see the University’s Electron Microscopy Centre (PEMC) open its doors to businesses in Devon, and work alongside them in using its specialist facilities for research.

Backed by the European Regional Development Fund, it will enable the institution to invest more than one million pounds on a state-of-the-art dual beam microscope that can analyse substances and construct three-dimensional images on a nanometre scale.

The total project funding of ~£1.7 million will also cover the recruitment of a project manager and two technical specialists to liaise with and support companies in physical sciences and engineering.

Dr Natasha Stephen, Director of PMCP, and a Lecturer in Advanced Analysis (Earth & Planetary Sciences) in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, said the project would build upon the work done by PEMC to make its facilities available to businesses in the region.

“We already work very successfully with our academics and students, and this funding will take our business engagement to a new level, with dedicated staff and technology, and a clear focus upon the impact of what we’re doing, measured in terms of new products launched or monetary value added for those businesses,” 

she said.

The new dual beam microscope will complement the University’s existing collection of Scanning Electron and Transmission Electron microscopes, and enable to it to undertake new work and bid for specialist research funding. Plymouth is one of very few universities in the country to have a dual beam microscope, which has intersecting electron and ion beams that are able to produce immediate, high resolution imaging in addition to cutting and polishing. 

“It’s a transformational piece of equipment that takes our research capability to a new level,” 

added Dr Roy Moate, Associate Professor and Manager of the PEMC. 

“And for the businesses that we will work with across engineering, science and manufacturing, it offers structural analysis in unparalleled detail.”