Developing Net Zero technology through advanced materials research

A new £1.7m facility for advanced materials research, housed at the University’s Bragg Centre, will enable the rapid analysis of soft materials and underpin the development of Net Zero technologies.

Materials and their increasing complexity play a key role in advancing technology in a wide range of industries, ranging from additive manufacturing to healthcare, energy and the environment. But a step-change in chemical analysis, at the nanoscale level, is needed to better understand soft materials and their molecular compositions.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) awarded the £1.7m instrument to the University to facilitate 3D-nanoscale chemical analyses of soft and composite materials. It will be part of Leeds Electron Microscopy and Spectroscopy Centre (LEMAS), and will be located in the Bragg Centre for Materials Research inside the University’s new Sir William Henry Bragg Building.

The University is a founding partner of the Henry Royce Institute for Advanced Materials, and the Institute’s work will take place in the Bragg building. In response to the Government’s Net Zero targets, the Henry Royce Institute, in collaboration with the Institute of Physics (IOP), has been working with the materials community to roadmap solutions for the UK's net-zero energy transition.

The research to be carried out using the £1.7m instrument, led by Professor Rik Drummond-Brydson from the School of Chemical and Process Engineering, will address the urgent need for sustainable Net Zero technologies brought on by increasing societal pressure.

Characterising nanoscale materials

The next-generation equipment will facilitate research focused on reconstructing and developing materials at the scale of individual atoms. It comprises a ‘cryo-focused ion beam-scanning’ electron microscope with mass spectrometer, which is an important tool for surface chemical analysis and characterising both hard and soft materials.

It works by reconstructing a 3D image of a material built from samples, sectioned step by step, using its focused ion beam. The 3D imaging spans ‘lengthscales’ ranging from a 10th of a millimetre, down to the nanoscale and the level of atoms and molecules.

The research fills a pivotal gap in the combined structural and chemical imaging of materials. This capability will increase the UK’s expertise in key hybrid organic-inorganic materials, opening up new horizons for applications in medicine, chemical and structural analyses, and electronics.

The new EPSRC equipment will be a cutting-edge resource for commercial partners and businesses as well as University of Leeds students.

The University’s Bragg Centre

State-of-the-art equipment for fabricating and investigating new materials, including some of the most advanced technology for materials analysis in the UK, will be housed at the University’s Bragg Centre.

The Sir William Henry Bragg Building offers a stimulating environment both undergraduate students and postgraduate researchers to pursue their academic endeavours as part of the University’s global community.

Further information

Discover more about the Sir William Henry Bragg Building, the Bragg Centre and our Advanced Engineering Materials research.

Find out more more about the Henry Royce Institute for Advanced Materials and the roadmap to the UK’s Net Zero energy transition.

Learn more about Professor Rik Drummond-Brydson’s work.