The full picture

The University of Manchester has been awarded £1.7 million to build a new instrument which will for the first time combine ToF-SIMS and infrared spectroscopy.

The University of Manchester has been awarded £1.7 million to build a new instrument which will for the first time combine ToF-SIMS and infrared spectroscopy opening up new possibilities in the study biological, organic and inorganic materials.

The capabilities of the instrument, which is expected to be built within two years, will be tested on materials such as prostate cancer tissue and environmental particulate pollutants.

The new instrument will enable surface and bulk analysis to be carried out simultaneously by combining SIMS surface analysis with infrared spectroscopy.

The project, which will span a four year period, is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and will be carried out in collaboration with the University of Surrey and Penn State University, USA.

The Principal Investigator, Professor John Vickerman, Director of the Surface Analysis Research Centre, said: “This project is an exciting example of how high-level fundamental research will be exploited for the construction a novel instrument that can then be used for vital medical or environmental research. By combining this capability with infra-red spectroscopy we will be able to get a much fuller picture of the chemistry of the molecules and materials we are studying.”

ToF-SIMS and infra-red spectroscopy have already been used to probe prostate cancer tissue in a separate project within the University’s School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Sciences. Co-investigators Dr Peter Gardner and Dr Nick Lockyer, in collaboration with scientists and clinicians at the CRUK Paterson Institute, have been applying IR spectroscopy and ToF-SIMS in the field of prostate cancer research for several years.

Peter Gardner, said: “IR spectroscopy has proved a highly successful tool for diagnosing and monitoring a range of diseases, including prostate cancer”. Nick Lockyer added; “The application of ToF-SIMS in cancer studies is extremely novel and this unique machine will allow us the new insights at the molecular level”

Environmental studies will also exploit the unique capabilities of the new instrument and will focus on investigating the surface chemistry of various types of particles found in the atmosphere, with specific interest in the uptake and transformation of small atmospheric molecules on solid particles. These fundamental processes undoubtedly affect the role of such particles in global climate change.

Co-investigator Dr Andrew Horn, said: “This is a considerable step forward in advanced, chemically resolved instrumentation. Over the past 10 years, we have demonstrated the complementarity of SIMS and IR spectroscopy through applications in a number of areas.

“The instrumentation and methods developed in this project will have significantly wider applications in physical and materials science in the longer term as well.”

Professor Vickerman, added: “If we can produce a machine which can simultaneously analyse the same sample of materials using SIMS and infrared spectroscopy it will be a world first for Manchester.”