A multi-million pound scientific research facility with applications as diverse as fuel cell-powered cars, battery- operated bionic limbs and smaller electrical components was officially opened today (Tuesday 30 April 2002).
The “Facilities for the Characterisation of Solids and Surfaces”, unveiled by the President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and former UK chief scientific advisor Sir William Stewart, house over £3 million worth of state-of-the-art equipment and around 50 staff supported by grants of over £10 million.
The University of St Andrews facility will make a vital contribution to the Scottish academic base in materials, provide a unique facility for existing Scottish industry and act as a magnet for the attraction of new industrial investment, particularly in research and development.
Funded by the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council (SHEFC) and the University, the three new sets of facilities – an electron microscopy suite, facility for the characterisation of solids and surface science suite – will be the focal point for several cutting-edge research programmes including the advancement of innovative work on materials for fuel cells – mini power plants which produce electricity without combustion. As well as being ultra clean and highly efficient, fuel cell operated cars, soon to appear on our roads, will slash motorists’ petrol bills.
Researchers will also use the new facility to manufacture the thinnest ever wires. The wires, which are single crystals of silver or copper, are about one million times thinner than a human hair and will lead to smaller electrical components. Meanwhile, St Andrews scientists can now observe the behaviour of individual molecules placed on a flat surface and can even distinguish the differences between right and left handed molecules. This is relevant to the production of purer pharmaceuticals, the development of biosensors and the understanding of optoelectronic properties of ultra-thin molecular films.
Work will also continue on the search for new materials to produce lightweight, compact and environmentally friendly lithium batteries. As well as making an impact on clean energy storage, the devices will play a crucial role in Scotland’s electronics and healthcare industries, powering everything from laptops to pacemakers. Major research programmes are also underway for catalysts which can make the production of important chemicals in medicine and industry cleaner and greener and new materials for the electronics and opto- electronics industry.
Professor John Irvine, who is in charge of the facility for characterisation of solids, said, “The new St Andrews facility provides UK leading capability to complement the high level of expertise present in surface and materials chemistry. It provides key infrastructure and instrumentation to help develop new industries in Scotland as well as underpin developments in more established industries.”
To mark the opening of the facilities, which come under the auspices of the School of Chemistry and the St Andrews Centre for Advanced Materials (a collaboration between chemists, physicists, earth scientists and materials scientists), leading speakers from the surface science and materials chemistry areas gave presentations.
Professor David King, FRS, Government Chief Scientific Officer spoke on “Science and Government”; Professor Gérard Férey, Institute Lavoisier, Université de Versailles Saint- Quentin-en-Yvelines gave the presentation, “From Building Blocks to Very Large Pores via Scale Chemistry”; and Professor Peter Edwards, FRS, University of Birmingham addressed the audience on “The Storage of Hydrogen in Solids”. Sir William Stewart, President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh took the Chair.
NOTE TO EDITORS – SHOULD YOU WISH TO SEND A REPORTER/PHOTOGRAPHER TO THE OFFICIAL OPENING/TOUR, PLEASE REPORT TO THE COMMON ROOM, SCHOOL OF CHEMISTRY (PURDIE BUILDING), NORTH HAUGH, ST ANDREWS AT 2PM, ASKING FOR CLAIRE GRAINGER AND/OR GAYLE COOK.
Issued by Beattie Media on behalf of the University of St Andrews For more information please contact Claire Grainger on 01334 462530, 07730 415 015 or email cg24@st- andrews.ac.uk Ref: chemistryopening/standrews/chg/29ap ril2002