Molecular and Nanoscale Physics

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Physics & Astronomy

MNP away day Spring 2017

The MNP group enjoyed a weekend in Selside in April during which current research projects were presented, a leisurely walk around the surrounding area took place and a BBQ held at the end of the two days, always a highlight of the trip!


Summer School kicks off

The School of Physics and Astronomy hosted a 4 day Ogden Trust Physics Summer School this week, with 30 AS-level physics students from across the wide Yorkshire area attending. The event was aimed at high achieving students, and included a mix of workshops and lectures designed to challenge and improve their mathematical skills.

Students also had the opportunity to join research groups in the School for a day, visiting research laboratories and gaining experience of using state-of-the-art equipment. This included spectrometers, x-ray diffractometers, liquid crystals and single molecule force spectroscopy.


MNP Spring meal

Last night, some members of the MNP group took a trip to the Red Chilli in Leeds to celebrate the first social event of the year.

Event report: Life in Extreme Environments

Physics of Life Network in collaboration with the University of Leeds ran a short conference back in November with a focus on Life in Extreme Environments. The conference was chaired by Dr Lorna Dougan from the Molecular and Nanoscale research group in the School of Physics and Astronomy at Leeds.

Delegates from the field met in Leeds to discuss research interests and potential collaborations. Professor Joe Zaccai, Institut Laue Langevin, who is well known in the field of extremophiles gave a key note speech as part of the conference.

A report on the event has since been published on the 'Understanding Physics of Life' website and can be viewed by clicking here.

MNP Photo Competition Results

Congratulations to Adam Harvie, Adam Churchman and Victoria Mico for winning Category one of the MNP Photo Competition, which was for Scientific images. The three of them created the letters 'MNP' from PDMS, illuminated by the fluorescence of various sizes and colours of CdSe quantum dots.

The second winner was Radwa Abou-Saleh who won category two for her image of her daughter with a Macro Bubble.

The photos are displayed below and the others will be displayed shortly.

Thank you again to everyone for taking part.

Group Outreach

On Wednesday 10th December the Molecular and Nanoscale group enjoyed a day of project creation and festivities. The Postgraduates and Postdocs spilt into small groups and spent the day working on outreach projects that could be used in School's to help generate interest in different areas of research.

At the end of the day there were some light refreshments and each of the groups presented back their work to everyone present.

It was a great opportunity to look at the current research in a different way and explore new avenues.

New Paper by Dr Kevin Critchley

Quantum dots are fundamentally interesting due to their quantum confinement effects and they are also technologically important.  Quantum dots are semiconductor nanocrystals typically <10 nm in diameter.  Their small size has the effect of causing quantum confinement of the free 'holes’ and ‘electrons’ within the crystal -an ideal example of a ‘Particle in a box’.   They have applications in lasers, solar cells, LEDs, bioimaging, sensing, and quantum computation.  They will soon be used in the next generation of lighting and display devices replacing the current bulk semiconductor technology which we have all become dependant on.  However, there is an issue with current quantum dots because they typically are cadmium-based.  Cadmium is a toxic element and its use is being increasingly restricted.  Therefore there is a drive to develop non-cadmium based quantum dots with similar optical and electronic properties to the best cadmium quantum dots.  In a recent article published in J. Phys. Chem. C Dr Critchley and co-workers investigated a promising alternative, copper indium disulphide quantum dots.  They used ultra fast laser experiments to determine the electronic structure of these nanocrysals for the first time.  The results where surprising,  the quantum dots actually efficiently emit light through defect states within the crystals rather than directly across the band-gap. Whilst this effect has been observed before the defect-type had remained unknown until now.  We now know that the important defects are indium-copper anti-sites. An interesting aspect of this outcome means that we will be able to deliberately increase or control the defect densities to control the optoelectronic properties of these unique nanoparticles. The details of this work are published here:


LENNF Winter School 

Dr Kellye Curtis is helping to organise the Leeds EPSRC Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Facility (LENNF) Winter School.

The School is free and open to all PhDs with a relevant background in the fields covered from any UK University.

It will include lectures, demonstrations and Q&A sessions about the equipment and techniques available through the facility. The School will run from 13-15th January, and accommodation will be provided and travel costs reimbursed by LENNF.

Registration closes on 24/11/2014 please contact Dr Kellye Curtis ( for further details and to register.

Please visit the website:

Smallest world record has ‘endless possibilities’ for bio-nanotechnology

University of Leeds Press Release

Release date - 8th October 2014

Scientists from the University of Leeds have taken a crucial step forward in bio-nanotechnology, a field that uses biology to develop new tools for science, technology and medicine.

The new study, published in print today in the journal Nano Letters, demonstrates how stable ‘lipid membranes’ – the thin ‘skin’ that surrounds all biological cells – can be applied to synthetic surfaces.

Importantly, the new technique can use these lipid membranes to ‘draw’ – akin to using them like a biological ink  – with a resolution of 6 nanometres (6 billionths of a meter), which is much smaller than scientists had previously thought was possible.

“This is smaller than the active elements of the most advanced silicon chips and promises the ability to position functional biological molecules – such as those involved in taste, smell, and other sensory roles – with high precision, to create novel hybrid bio-electronic devices,” said Professor Steve Evans, from the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leeds and a co-author of the paper.

In the study, the researchers used something called Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM), which is an imaging process that has a resolution down to only a fraction of a nanometer and works by scanning an object with a miniscule mechanical probe. AFM, however, is more than just an imaging tool and can be used to manipulate materials in order to create nanostructures and to ‘draw’ substances onto nano-sized regions. The latter is called ‘nano-lithography’ and was the technique used by Professor Evans and his team in this research.

The ability to controllably ‘write’ and ‘position’ lipid membrane fragments with such high precision was achieved by Mr George Heath, a PhD student from the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leeds and the lead author of the research paper.

Mr Heath said: “The method is much like the inking of a pen. However, instead of writing with fluid ink, we allow the lipid molecules – the ink – to dry on the tip first. This allows us to then write underwater, which is the natural environment for lipid membranes. Previously, other research teams have focused on writing with lipids in air and they have only been able to achieve a resolution of microns, which is a thousand times larger than what we have demonstrated. “

The research is of fundamental importance in helping scientists understand the structure of proteins that are found in lipid membranes, which are called ‘membrane proteins’. These proteins act to control what can be let into our cells, to remove unwanted materials, and a variety of other important functions.

For example, we smell things because of membrane proteins called ‘olfactory receptors’, which convert the detection of small molecules into electrical signals to stimulate our sense of smell.  And many drugs work by targeting specific membrane proteins. 

“Currently, scientists only know the structure of a small handful of membrane proteins. Our research paves the way to understand the structure of the thousands of different types of membrane proteins to allow the development of many new drugs and to aid our understanding of a range of diseases,” explained Professor Evans.

Aside from biological applications, this area of research could revolutionise renewable energy production.

Working in collaboration with researchers at the University of Sheffield, Professor Evans and his team have all of the membrane proteins required to construct a fully working mimic of the way plants capture sunlight. Eventually, the researchers will be able to arbitrarily swap out the biological units and replace them with synthetic components to create a new generation of solar cells.

Professor Evans concludes: “This is part of the emerging field of synthetic biology, whereby engineering principles are being applied to biological parts – whether it is for energy capture, or to create artificial noses for the early detection of disease or simply to advise you that the milk in your fridge has gone off.

“The possibilities are endless.”

Further information

This research was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

George Heath and Professor Steve Evans are available for interview. Please contact Sarah Reed, Press Officer at the University of Leeds, on 0113 34 34196 or email


Caption: Mr George Heath setting up the Atomic Force Microscope, which sits on a vibration isolation table and is held within an acoustic hood to isolate external noise. 

Credit: Mr George Heath

Image download:

University of Leeds

The University of Leeds is one of the largest higher education institutions in the UK and a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities.




MNP Photo Competition

We have launched a MNP Photo Competition for all you budding photographers out there!

Everyone in the group is welcome to participate and the winner will go free to the MNP Christmas meal this year and have their photos featured in school brochures and the website!


There are 2 categories that you can enter

        I. Scientific Images

        II. Funny, interesting, pictures group members,
             MNP trips etc.

You are welcome to enter both or just one of the categories, there will be a winner from each announced.

Deadline - 30th November

Please submit entries to:

All submitted entries will help form a collage, which will be displayed in the MNP area of the School.


Good luck and get snapping!

MNP Away Day

Friday 5th September

MNP Austria Trip

18th-22nd August 2014

Members of the MNP group recently took a trip to Austria to attend the Annual Austria Bio Nano Summer School.

It is a collaboration between the Leeds MNP group in Physics and Astronomy, a group from University of Bath and a group from Siegen University in Germany.

Throughout the week there are a number of research presentations and opportunities to informally discuss work with others in the same field.


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