• High energy EM to support future UK research expansion
    Professor Angus Kirkland and the Correlated Imaging group at the Rosalind Franklin Institute (Credit: Rosalind Franklin Institute)

Research News

High energy EM to support future UK research expansion

Jun 19 2024

A new £125 million UK national facility, backed by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Infrastructure Fund, will house the world’s most powerful high energy electron microscope and support UK scientific research supporting multi-disciplinary research in key scientific and technological areas.

A collaboration between the University of Liverpool, Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and the Rosalind Franklin Institute, the facility, known as RUEDI (Relativistic Ultrafast Electron Diffraction and Imaging), will be built at the SciTech Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus in the Liverpool City region.

The instrument will allow dynamic study of biological and chemical processes in ‘real time’ and at the femtosecond timescale – one quadrillionth of a second or faster.

Professor Angus Kirkland, Science Director at the Rosalind Franklin Institute, Chair of Materials at the University of Oxford, and RUEDI Lead for Life Sciences, said, “We are thrilled to be part of this partnership with the University of Liverpool and STFC.

“This project has great potential to revolutionise how we see life; using this technology we will be able to see interactions happening within a cell at molecular resolution. This will give us new insights into biology and will hopefully open the door to the discovery of new medicines.”

For life sciences, this exceptional instrument will open up new areas of investigation, enabling studies of thicker samples than can currently be imaged. With a penetration depth around 10 micrometres, researchers will for example, be able to look at whole eukaryotic cells at unprecedented resolution to observe complex dynamic process as well as the effects of drug action within cells and cellular components.

The team hope to first apply this technology to studying cardiac disease and viral invasion of cells hoping to provide key insights which may lead to the development of new therapeutics and diagnostics.

Professor Nigel Browning, Chair of Electron Microscopy in the School of Engineering at the University of Liverpool, and RUEDI project lead, commented on the recent announcement: “This is excellent news for the University of Liverpool, for the North West region and for the UK scientific community.

“RUEDI is the first facility to allow the evolution of structural changes in materials to be observed and determined through time-resolved experiments, rather than by static structure.  This ground-breaking capability will help researchers develop the new technologies and solutions needed to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time.”

Construction is planned to start in 2027 with the facility opening expected in in 2032.

“Professor Mark Thomson, Executive Chair for the Science and Technologies Facilities Council and Infrastructure Champion for UKRI said: “Through these investments UKRI continues to equip the research and innovation community with the tools it needs to explore and develop the science and technologies needed for the coming decades.  The long-term nature of this investment also helps to maintain the UK’s key position on the world stage of research and innovation for the future.”

Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, Michelle Donelan, said: “As science and technology develops faster than ever, it is vital we ensure UK innovators have the right tools at their disposal to continue ground-breaking work from revolutionising medicine to protecting the world we live in for generations to come.

“From digitising millions of specimens to help halt future pandemics, to building the most powerful microscope of its type right here in the UK to improve drug design, to better information sharing between labs, our £473m investment infrastructure will set the conditions that allow our brightest minds to thrive and build a healthier and more prosperous UK.”

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