N8 Universities Lead National Celebration Of New Chemistry Facilities


Chemistry researchers from across the N8 are showcasing a major enhancement in chemistry research equipment today, as part of a co-ordinated series of events across the UK.

The event, which is taking place at The University of Manchester,  has been organised to showcase the new capabilities and highlight the impact being made in some of the latest chemistry research taking place across the universities involved. It follows a co-ordinated family of bids from the N8 Research Partnership which led to a total of £6M being awarded as part of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Core Chemistry Capability initiative to help restore world-class instrumental resources in UK university chemistry departments.

This major investment has now enabled the group to install some of the latest and most powerful scientific instruments in N8 universities, supporting world-class research with applications in areas as diverse as drug development, industrial biotechnology, quantum computing and nuclear clean-up.

The new equipment covers four core areas of chemistry research: mass spectrometry (MS), nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), X-ray diffraction (XRD), and atomic-level microscopy. Mass spectrometry and NMR spectroscopy are fundamental tools for the chemist, allowing both the sizes and the detailed chemical structures of molecules to be determined. Chemists across the N8 synthesise thousands of new compounds every year, with potential applications in medicine, agriculture, food science and the environment, and in almost every case the first two steps in determining what has been made are to measure an NMR spectrum and a mass spectrum. Where compounds form crystals, X-ray diffraction allows a complete three-dimensional map of chemical structure to be made, even for the most complex chemical systems such as proteins and DNA. Because the properties of materials can change when very small particles are made, atomic-level microscopy is vital both for determining the shapes and sizes of nanoparticles, and for building our understanding of how both nanoparticles and larger systems form.

Among the speakers at the event is Andrew Bourne, Lead for Physical Sciences, EPSRC. Presentations highlighting the research impact of these four core chemical capabilities and of the new equipment will be given by:
• Professor Perdita Barran (Manchester) – Mass spectrometry
• Professor Gareth Morris, FRS (Manchester) – NMR
• Professor John Evans (Durham) – X-ray diffraction
• Professor Graham Leggett (Sheffield) – Atomic level microscopy

Professor Luke Georghiou Vice-President for Research and Innovation at the University of Manchester, said:
“The N8 universities already have a strong track record of working together to increase the impact of research. Greater clustering of equipment across institutions creates opportunities for more effective usage of research, and this latest support from the EPSRC will help our universities stay at the forefront of leading edge scientific research by building on the world-leading capability that exists across the eight partners.”

The event will also provide an opportunity for participants to discuss opportunities for greater collaboration and equipment sharing. Earlier this year, the N8 Research Partnership launched itsEquipment Sharing Toolkit to make it easier for researchers to share equipment. The Toolkit aims to address many of the operational issues that can arise when university research equipment is shared and comprises a set of templates and guidelines, providing a framework that enables academics to have greater access to cutting edge equipment.

The development of the N8 Equipment Sharing Toolkit builds on work funded by the EPSRC to map the research equipment across the N8 universities. This led to the creation of a fully searchable online database which can be used to locate and request access to research equipment and facilities across the N8 partner universities.