The Basic Technology programme of Research Councils UK is meant to stimulate multi-disciplinary and large scale research into generic new technologies with wide-spread impact on future academic and industrial research and development. A large award was made by RCUK to conduct research over 4 years in the area of novel instrumentation development for nanomanipulation and nanoscale 3D characterisation
The research programme will integrate elements of the previously separate technologies of scanning probe microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, nanoindentation, and 3D-reconstruction of nanoobjects (Nanotomography), starting from July 2004. The programme led by Dr. B.J. Inkson and Dr. G. Möbus in the Dept of Engineering Materials at Sheffield University, will be a collaboration between five University Departments at the University of Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Nottingham.
Many new nanotechnology research fields require a high degree of precision in both observing and manipulating materials at the atomic level. This can be realised by combining nanoscale actuator technology with live electron microscopy observation, each at a resolution of around 0.1nm.
The versatility of the instrumentation to be developed and integrated in the specimen chamber of an atomic resolution electron microscope, including nanoscale ‘hands’, vision feedback (‘eyes’) and control, 3D image processing, and multi-property physical sensors can be summarised as a “Nanorobot” operating in a “Nanolab”.