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Representative Characterisation of Nanomaterials

Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences

About the Project

There are extensive potential biomedical applications for nanomaterials, with possible uses in bio-imaging and -sensing, and for drug delivery. In order to maximise the opportunities and understand the uncertainties related to the use of these nanomaterials in real world situations we need to undertake representative characterisation. This is a challenge; while electron microscopy is ideally suited to nanoscale characterisation due to the spatial resolution and availability of associated spectroscopic techniques, there are often limitations encountered in terms of sample preparation. The vacuum requirements of an electron microscope normally exclude in situ studies, and the required sample preparation can often lead to artefacts.

A viable alternative is electron microscopy conducted on frozen hydrated samples, where the nanomaterials are ‘captured’ in the native state and any electron beam induced damage products are immobilised [1]. This can be applied to nanoparticles dispersed in suspensions of interest [2], or to more complex systems, such as Pickering emulsions [3]. A limitation here is often the 2D image that is produced of a 3D system, and this project will aim to move this research area forward in terms of representative characterisation of nanomaterial systems in three dimensions, using cryo electron tomography and cryo focused ion beam scanning electron microscopy.

The start date for this project is 1 November 2020.

This project will utilise the advanced instrumentation of the Leeds Electron Microscopy and Spectroscopy centre, specifically the Titan3 transmission electron microscope (TEM) and the Helios focused ion beam scanning electron microscope (FIB-SEM), both of which are equipped to undertake 3D and cryogenic studies. As part of this project you will be trained to become an independent user of both microscopes, and undertake extensive analysis of complex 3D datasets. This project will establish the limits of cryo-FIB-SEM for native state nanomaterial studies, and impact on the use of nanomaterials in the real world. You will be part of the Materials Characterisation research group and have the opportunity to collaborate with other researchers.

Funding Notes

A highly competitive scholarship offering Academic Fee at Home/EU Fee rate (£4,600 for Session 2020/21), plus Maintenance matching the EPSRC rate of £15,285 per year for 3.5 years.  Please note that International candidates are not eligible to apply.

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