The University of Birmingham will reveal its potential to stretch the extreme limits of surface science nanotechnology next week when it launches its new £2.5 million Nanoscale Science Facility within the School of Physics and Astronomy.
The Nanoscale Science Facility (NSF) will enable the University's team of scientists to explore in greater depth the manipulation of single atoms and molecules - 10,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair - in order to significantly enhance a number of fields from materials to chemicals, biomedical analysis to information technology.
The new facility, to be officially launched on Wednesday 5 May by prize-winning physicist Professor Michael Pepper FRS, marks the next phase in the University's development of nanoscale science following 10 years of success in the field.
Professor Richard Palmer, Director of the NSF explains: "The creation of the Nanoscale Science Facility comes at a very exciting stage in the development of nanoscience. For the first time, we will be able to "see below the surface" when we are manipulating nanostructures, working at the extreme limits of this emergent technology.
"One of the new research projects we are currently running involves exploring the behaviour of individual protein molecules, including cytokines, which carry signals between cells to fight disease. We have now developed nanoscale structures to harness, immobilize and orient these individual protein molecules, so further research in this area may impact on our understanding of diseases such as cancer. We are working with the atomic construction kits of the future".
The NSF provides the University with three new capabilities: the ability to "see below the surface" of pre-fabricated nanoscale structures with a novel electron microscope; an enhanced ability to manipulate single atoms and molecules; and new tools for electron beam writing on the nanometer scale to develop novel methods of nano-fabrication.
Nanotechnology is a key priority for both the region and for the government, who recently announced that, through the Department for Trade and Industry, it will establish a national Micro and Nano Technology network to support the uptake of nanotechnology by UK industry.
Professor Richard Palmer continues: "We look forward to strengthening existing links and forging new partnerships with industry, both internationally and closer to home. I envisage the Nanoscale Science Facility making an important contribution to the development of the West Midlands' Central Technology Belt, and also to government initiatives in the field of nanotechnology."