ERC grant funds 3D imagining of nanostructures

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UCL Press Release

October 9 2008

Professor Ian Robinson has just received a grant from the European Research Council (ERC) that will support five years of research into the effects of strain formations in nanostructures.  Robinson and his group will use coherent x-ray diffraction methods which they themselves have developed and which make full use of the latest x-ray sources. They have also developed a computer algorithm which they will use in phasing their data so the strains can be visualised in three dimensions, as the accompanying image of a 160nm silver nanocube shows.                                                                           

Experts at the London Centre for Nanotechnology (LCN) will create the nanocrystalline samples using the lithographic processing technique. When these samples interact with their environment, Robinson and his group expect to see a characteristic pattern of strain.  The results can potentially improve the performance of semiconductor devices and can lead to a better understanding of why such devices behave differently when their size is reduced to nanometer dimension.

Because 3rd generation synchrotron radiation sources  are central to the research (they provide high brightness beams with sufficient coherence), measurements will be done   at APS in Chicago, US,  at the ESRF in Grenoble, France, and finally at DLS in Oxford, UK.  At the Advanced Photon Source (APS) Robinson’s group will develop new technology for sample positioning in the micron-sized beams.  In the latter part  of the grant, the new technology developed in America  will then be transferred to Europe: to the UK’s own Diamond Light Source where the I-13L coherence beamline will be ready for operation in 2011, two years  before the new ERC grant ends.

Notes for Editors:

Contact details:

For further information or to speak to Professor Ian Robinson, please contact Dave Weston in the UCL Press Office on +44 (0) 20 7679 7678 or email: For out of hours enquiries call +44 (0) 7917 271 364.

Images: This image is available by contacting the UCL Press Office (see above):

Image caption:

Image of a 160nm silver nanocube.

About the London Centre for Nanotechnology:

The London Centre for Nanotechnology is an interdisciplinary joint enterprise between University College London and Imperial College London. In bringing together world-class infrastructure and leading nanotechnology research activities, the Centre aims to attain the critical mass to compete with the best facilities abroad. Research programmes are aligned to three key areas, namely Planet Care, Healthcare and Information Technology and bridge together biomedical, physical and engineering sciences. Website:

About UCL (University College London):

Founded in 1826, UCL was the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to admit students regardless of race, class, religion or gender, and the first to provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine. In the government's most recent Research Assessment Exercise, 59 UCL departments achieved top ratings of 5* and 5, indicating research quality of international excellence. UCL is in the top ten world universities in the 2007 THES-QS World University Rankings, and the fourth-ranked UK university in the 2007 league table of the top 500 world universities produced by the Shanghai Jiao Tong University. UCL alumni include Marie Stopes, Jonathan Dimbleby, Lord Woolf, Alexander Graham Bell, and members of the band Coldplay. Website: