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Equipment & Expertise

The major analytical equipment at the University is divided into a number of sections according to the techniques employed ( a full list of equipment can be found on the Kit Catalogue):  

  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Imaging and Microscopy
  • Nuclear Magnetic Resonance
  • Thermal Analysis
  • Infrared and Raman Spectroscopy
  • X-ray Crystallography 

TechExpertise 

 

Mass Spectrometry

Mass spectrometry is an analytical tool used for measuring the molecular mass of a sample. It is mostly used to generate structural information about molecules. 

Where is the technique applicable?

Mass spectrometry is used for: 

  • Identification of unknown compounds by the mass of the compound molecules or their fragments 
  • Determining elemental composition of a compound by accurate mass measurement 
  • Determining isotopic composition of elements in a compound 
  • Determining the structure of a compound by observing its fragmentation 
  • Quantifying the amount of a compound in a sample using carefully designed methods 
  • Studying the fundamentals of gas phase ion chemistry 
  • Determining other important physical, chemical, or even biological properties of compounds with a variety of other approaches 

Where are mass spectrometers used? 

Mass spectrometers are used in industry and academia for both routine and research purposes. A brief list of some of the uses of mass spectrometry are given below: 

  • Biotechnology: the analysis of proteins, peptides and oligonucleotides 
  • Clinical: neonatal screening, haemoglobin analysis, drug testing 
  • Environmental: PAHs, PCBs, water quality, food contamination 
  • Food Science: flavour chemistry 
  • Geological: oil composition, isotope analysis 
  • Pharmaceutical: drug discovery, combinatorial chemistry, pharmacokinetics, drug metabolism.
 

Imaging and Microscopy

Electron Microscopes are scientific instruments that use a beam of highly energetic electrons to examine objects on a very fine scale. Electron microscopes have a much greater resolving power than light microscopes, with magnifications for some electron microscopes reaching up to 2 million times. 

This examination can yield the following information:
  • Topography: The surface features of an object or "how it looks", its texture. 
  • Morphology: The shape and size of the particles making up the object. 
  • Composition: The elements and compounds that the object is composed of and the distribution of the relative amounts of them. 
  • Crystallographic Information: How the atoms are arranged in the object. 

Transmission electron microscope (TEM) 

In the TEM, a beam of electrons is passed through an ultra-thin specimen. Information can be obtained from the electrons that have interacted with the specimen as they pass through 

Morphology: The size, shape and arrangement of the structures which make up the specimen as well as their relationship to each other, at resolutions up to the scale of atomic diameters. 

Crystallographic Information: The arrangement of atoms in the specimen and their degree of order, detection of atomic-scale defects at resolutions up to a few nanometres 

Compositional Information (if so equipped): The elements and compounds the sample is composed of and their relative ratios, at resolutions up to the nanometre scale.

Scanning electron microscope (SEM) 

SEMs image a sample by rastering a beam of electrons across the surface while measuring signals that contain information such as the topography, morphology and composition of the sample. 

  • Topography: The surface features of an object or "how it looks", its texture; detectable features limited to a few nanometres 
  • Morphology: The shape, size and arrangement of the particles making up the object that are lying on the surface of the sample or have been exposed by grinding or chemical etching; detectable features can be as small as a few nanometres 
  • Composition: The elements and compounds the sample is composed of and their relative ratios, in areas from millimetre scales to sub micron. 

Atomic force microscope(AFM) 

Atomic force microscopy (AFM) is a method of measuring surface topography on a scale from angstroms to 100 microns. The technique involves imaging a sample through the use of a probe, or tip, with a radius of 20 nm. 

AFM is being used to solve processing and materials problems in a wide range of technologies affecting the electronics, telecommunications, biological, chemical, automotive, aerospace, and energy industries. 

The materials being investigating include thin and thick film coatings, ceramics, composites, glasses, synthetic and biological membranes, metals, polymers, and semiconductors. The AFM is being applied to studies of phenomena such as abrasion, adhesion, cleaning, corrosion, etching, friction, lubrication, plating, and polishing.  

 

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance 

Nuclear magnetic resonance is an important and powerful analytical tool used for determination of structure.  It is mostly used to generate structural information about molecules. 

Where is the technique applicable?

NMR Spectroscopy is used for: 

  • Identification of unknown compounds by functional group analysis 
  • Bonding connectivity 
  • Molecular conformations 
  • Chemical dynamics 
  • Molecular Interactions 
  • Determining other important physical, chemical, or even biological properties of compounds with a variety of other approaches.    

Where are NMR spectrometers used? 

NMR spectrometers are used in industry and academia for both routine and research purposes. A brief list of major NMR spectrometric fields of applications are given below:        

  • Biotechnology: the analysis of proteins, peptides and oligonucleotides 
  • Medicine: medical diagnosis 
  • Clinical: proton spectra of metabolites in human beings 
  • Chemistry: determination of structure of organic compounds 
  • Environmental: qualitative analysis of compounds present in the environment 
  • Food Science: food authenticity and traceability 
  • Geological: oil composition 
  • Pharmaceutical: drug discovery, combinatorial chemistry, pharmacokinetics, drug metabolism.               
 

Thermal Analysis

Thermal analysis is a branch of materials science where the chemical and physical properties of materials are studied as they change with temperature. 

Where is the technique applicable?

Thermal analysis is used to measure: 

  • Temperature difference: Differential thermal analysis (DTA) 
  • Heat difference: Differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) 
  • Mass change: Thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) 
  • Dimension: Thermomechanical analysis (TMA) 
  • Volume: Dilatometry (DIL) 
  • Mechanical stiffness & damping: Dynamic mechanical analysis (DMA) 

Where are thermal analysis instruments used?  

Thermal analysis instruments are used in industry and academia for both routine and research purposes. A brief list of major thermal analysis fields of applications are given below: 

  • Pharmaceutical: Characterisation of drug substance and packaging, determination of polymorphic purity, residual solvents & moisture 
  • Medical & Clinical: Thermal properties & prediction of thermal stability as applied to skin,drug penetration & delivery, implants & prosthetics  
  • Food: Taste, appearance, texture, stability and quality control of food products 
  • Polymers: Analysis of raw materials and effect of additives in thermoplastics, composite materials used in the aerospace industry 
  • Metals: Composition of metal alloys and crystalline structure of the cast sample.
 

Infrared and Raman Spectroscopy 

Infrared spectroscopy is the measurement of the wavelength and intensity of the absorption of mid-infrared light by a sample. The wavelength of IR absorption bands are characteristic of specific types of chemical bonds. 

Raman spectroscopy is the measurement of the wavelength and intensity of inelastically scattered light from molecules.  The mechanism of Raman scattering is different from that of infrared absorption, and Raman and IR spectra produce complimentary information. 

Where is the technique applicable?

IR and Raman spectroscopies are used for: 

  • Structure determination 
  • Multicomponent qualitative analysis 
  • Quantitative analysis    

Where are IR and Raman instruments used? 

IR and Raman instruments are widely used in industry and academia for both research and routine purposes. A brief list of the uses of IR and Raman instruments are given below:  

  • Biotechnology: the analysis of proteins, peptides, lipids                      
  • Clinical: disease diagnosis, clinical chemistry                             
  • Environmental: PAHs, PCBs, water quality 
  • Food Science: flavour chemistry, food contamination  
  • Geological: oil composition, archeological samples  
  • Pharmaceutical: drug discovery, combinatorial chemistry,    
  • Materials: superconductors, semiconductors, catalysts, polymers    
 

X-ray Crystallography

X-ray diffraction is a technique most commonly applied to materials which are crystalline in the solid state. It is unsurpassed in its ability to provide three-dimensional structural information.  It provides information on the arrangement of molecules or other structural units as well as on local structure. 

Where is the technique applicable?

  • Amongst other applications, X-ray diffraction is used for: 
  • Identification of known materials and phases from their diffraction patterns 
  • Identification and characterisation of new materials 
  • Determining precise molecular structure, connectivity and geometry 
  • Establishing the absolute configuration of chiral compounds 
  • Determining the extended structures of materials 
  • Studying non-crystalline materials 
  • Observing changes in structure as a function of temperature, pressure, magnetic field, illumination or amount of reactant 

Where are X-ray diffractometers used?  

X-ray diffractometers are used in academia for research and in industry for both research and monitoring. A brief list of some of the uses of X-ray diffraction is given below: 

  • Chemistry: characterising new products and materials, investigating their properties 
  • Physics: determining fundamental properties 
  • Engineering: identifying properties of materials; stress analysis; tomography     
  • Biology, medicine: structures of macromolecules such as proteins and DNA 
  • Surface science: studying the structures of surfaces and interfaces under various environmental conditions 
  • Geology: identification of minerals and understanding their transformations 
  • Planetary science: studying the behaviour of atmospheric components under extreme conditions 
  • Pharmaceutical: structure-based drug design, physical properties, polymorph screening, patent applications, quality control 
  • Nanotechnology: investigation of structures, properties and their interdependence                  
 

 

Research & Graduate Services

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email: rgs@nottingham.ac.uk