13 October 2016 10:27

A major investment of more than £26 million into Chemistry facilities and equipment has been officially opened at Lancaster University.

The opening completes the rebirth of Lancaster’s Chemistry department, providing a cutting-edge environment for research and teaching.

Lancaster’s Chemistry department is further complemented by an £11.3 million Collaborative Technology Access Programme (cTAP) annex (part-funded with a £9 million grant from the European Regional Development Fund), which has been purpose-built to facilitate research and development partnerships with North West industry.

Professor Clare Grey FRS (Fellow of the Royal Society), a specialist in an analytical technique called nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) at the University of Cambridge, officially opened the building and also gave a guest lecture to an audience of academics, students, alumni, schoolchildren and business leaders. Dr Robert Parker, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, also attended and helped to open the facilities.

Professor Grey said: “I am honoured to be invited to open the new chemistry building at Lancaster and to give a lecture to the thriving and dynamic chemistry community.  The building and its new equipment and facilities clearly demonstrates the department and university’s clear commitment to make a significant impact in cutting edge areas of chemistry that have far reaching potential in areas of particular relevance to our rapidly changing world – from the use of modern spectroscopy to solve problems in energy and sustainability to the use of new synthetic methods to, for example, make smart materials for biological and optical applications.”

Professor Mark E. Smith, Vice-Chancellor of Lancaster University, said: "Chemistry is a core science which enhances Lancaster’s ability to address major scientific problems, and working closely with other departments across the university will enhance our cross-disciplinary research excellence.

“In addition, the department, and its superb new facilities, enable us to significantly support, and work alongside, the region’s chemistry-related industry – one of the largest concentrations in the UK.”

Professor Peter Fielden, Head of Chemistry at Lancaster University, said: “This investment is a huge signal of Lancaster’s intention to be one of the leading Chemistry departments in the UK.

“Our students benefit from excellent staff-to-student ratios, research-led teaching, and from an impressive suite of modern, dedicated instrumentation and equipment. Our cTAP facility will also bolster Lancaster’s role as a regional economic anchor by working closely with businesses to support research and development of commercial products.”

Dr Robert Parker, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry said: “It’s fantastic to see Lancaster University making such a big investment in training the chemists of the future. Chemistry is vital for solving many of the biggest problems we face, from climate change to antimicrobial resistance, and to support a flourishing knowledge-based economy in the UK. The evidence shows that students do best at institutions that combine first-class teaching with cutting-edge research, and I’m particularly pleased that chemistry students at Lancaster will benefit from state-of-the-art teaching and research facilities, as well as close links with the thriving chemical industry in the North-West.”

New facilities at Lancaster’s Chemistry department’s disposal include:

  • Two teaching labs each with a capacity of 60 students; one tailored for flexible synthetic chemistry teaching with three separate bays each of 10 fume hoods, the other for physical and analytical teaching containing a variety of modern spectroscopic, analytical and computational instrumentation.
  • Two large research laboratories, each designed to accommodate and support around 25 researchers in synthetic and physical/analytical/biological chemistry.
  • A £1.2 million Solid State NMR machine that weighs three tonnes. Two solution state NMR machines that cost around £300,000; one is used primarily for research by Lancaster’s Analytical Chemistry and Spectroscopy research group to characterise and measure the properties of atoms, molecules, solids, materials and biological systems.
  • X-ray diffractometers for the analysis of crystals, powders and thin-films. Using these techniques researchers can determine the chemical structures of new materials, and also identify known materials from complex mixtures.
  • Electron and atomic force microscopes such as the Keysight 5500 allow researchers to view objects magnified millions of times, and images in air, fluids, and under controlled environmental and temperature conditions.
  • Raman spectroscopy equipment that is used to characterise biological materials, including live cells and biopharmaceutical therapeutics.
  • An array of mass spectrometry equipment allows the identification and quantification of trace compounds. Applications of this include impurity monitoring, food and beverage analysis, forensics and toxicology, agriculture and pharmaceuticals.
  • A Nanoscribe Photonic Professional GT, which is the fastest microscale 3D printer available, with an achievable feature size of 1 µm (micrometer) and smaller.

The department also has key strengths and extensive resources in the growing field of chemical theory and computation, as well as in energy research, where many of the current major research challenges include developing efficient solar cells, organic light-emitting devices and new battery technologies.

Other strengths are in synthetic chemistry, materials chemistry, spectroscopy, analytical chemistry and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance.

The department has strong links with Lancaster research centres such as Energy Lancaster and Materials Science Institute.