The Materials Centre gets its new Atomic Force Microscope (AFM)

Installation and commissioning of the new Atomic Force Microscope took place in late August in the Materials Centre. This is an exciting development adding more cutting-edge technology to the comprehensive suite of surface characterisation facilities already assembled in the MC and the Advanced Microscopy Facility. The new AFM has the capability to create 3D images of a surface at the nanometre scale. It is also capable of imaging the positions of arrays of individual atoms giving scientific insights into the structure of materials that could only have been dreamt of even 10 years previously!

Delivery, installation and training for the new Bruker Atomic Force Microscope in the Materials Centre

The microscope, costing nearly a quarter of a million pounds, arrived from the USA weeks earlier packed in huge wooden crates that, in a heart-stopping moment, almost literally fell off the back of the lorry!  The manufacturer, Bruker, installed the instrument and initial training was completed just after the August bank holiday.

The new AFM was funded from a Faraday Institution grant won recently by Profs. Abbott and Ryder in the Materials Centre that focusses on the recycling of battery waste and the recovery of strategic metals such as nickel, cobalt, cooper, aluminium and other reusable components.  The microscope will be used to study the surfaces of battery—related materials as they are dissolved away and deposited in electrochemical processes (charging and discharging).  This will help us to understand and optimise how we treat battery materials and minimise waste, as well as provide insights into new battery cell chemistries.  In addition, the new microscope will be used to support range of materials related projects funded by the EU Horizon 2020 (project SAlBaGE), Innovate UK (projects CRUPPAIL, CHROMFREE), the Home Office and a range of industry partners and commercial contractors.  The AFM will also support work on forensic materials (Prof. Hillman), minerals processing and recovery in collaboration with colleagues in the School of Geography, Geology and the Environment as well as energy related research currently being developed by the University of Leicester in the College of Science and Engineering in partnership with Midlands Universities and energy stake holders under the major funding initiative of the Energy Research Accelerator (ERA).

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