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Electron microscopy to boost Welsh industry

10 June 2019

Scientists working

An £8.6m Electron Microscope Facility (EMF) to help Welsh industry develop new products is to be built at Cardiff University.

The Welsh Government has announced European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) co-funding for the project to drive discoveries in catalysis – the science of speeding up chemical change.

A suite of next-generation, ultra-sensitive microscopes will allow researchers to study materials and processes on the atomic scale, helping collaborating industries to make cleaner, greener and cheaper products.

The EMF will be at the heart of Cardiff Catalysis Institute (CCI)’s future home: the Translational Research Facility on Cardiff Innovation Campus

In total, the facility will bring together £3.6m from ERDF through Welsh Government with £750,000 from the Wolfson Foundation and £4.3m in match funding from Cardiff University.

Between 2014 and 2020, Wales is benefitting from over £2bn in European Structural Funds to help support businesses, research, innovation, training and other key objectives.

Counsel General and Brexit Minister, Jeremy Miles who is responsible for overseeing EU funds in Wales, said: “This investment will support major research collaborations between Cardiff University and industry which will lead to the development of new, innovative and sustainable manufacturing techniques.

“Research carried out at this facility will also help the UK to transition to a more sustainable low carbon economy - and boost Cardiff University, and Wales as a whole, as a centre for scientific study.

“Wales continues to benefit enormously from EU funding and this is another example of that investment strengthening our economy.”

Cardiff Catalysis Institute is one of the world's top five catalysis research centres, and the leading UK catalysis facility, supporting over 100 academic staff, postdoctoral researchers and graduate students.

Professor Rudolf Allemann, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Head of College of Physical Sciences and Engineering, said: “No facility comparable to the EMF exists in Wales. The Facility has a crucial role to play in supporting business in South East Wales, nurturing ground-breaking discoveries and enhancing Cardiff’s reputation for world-leading research and innovation.”

The former Director of CCI, Regius Professor of Chemistry, Graham Hutchings FRS CBE, who led the original bid for funding, welcomed the investment. “The new Electron Microscopy Facility will enable the CCI to carry out cutting edge research enabling the design of new catalysts for the benefit of society.”

Professor Duncan Wass, Director of the CCI, said the EMF would allow the Institute to build on its world-beating work to promote catalysis as a sustainable 21st-century technology.

“The facility’s nanoscale capabilities will help us break new ground across established and future areas of CCI expertise including selective oxidation, gold catalysis, bio-renewables, photocatalysis and catalytic routes for sustainable processes.”

Created in 2008, the CCI is an internationally recognised centre of excellence in all aspects of catalysis research, from fundamental design to industrially led applications. Its mission is to improve the understanding of catalysis, develop new catalytic processes with industry and promote the use of catalysis as a sustainable 21st-century technology.

Home to a new state-of-the-art AC-STEM electron microscope, EMF will also rehouse existing CCI microscopes and associated sample preparation equipment under one roof in an ‘ultra-quiet’ electromagnetically shielded and vibration free environment.

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Our state-of-the-art catalysis facility supports world leading research in chemical sciences.