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FIN Report Summary

Project ID: 307755
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: United Kingdom

Final Report Summary - FIN (Theory of Fundamental Interactions at the Nanoscale)

At the heart of the multi-disciplinary ERC FIN project lie two prominent theoretical methodologies, developed by the PI, which underpin the fundamental interactions taking place at the nanometre scale. The proposed core theoretical frameworks are central tools of the FIN: NANOPARTICLES and FIN: NANOMATERIALS themes of the project. Their fundamental nature offers solutions to problems across wide-ranging disciplines.

As originally proposed in the FIN: NANOPARTICLES theme, we have developed a fundamental general theory describing electrostatic forces in many-body systems that changed our understanding of how charged polarisable molecules and nanoparticles interact and assemble in concentrated solutions, including electrolytes, and on surfaces. We significantly extended the scientific scope and deliverables of the original research programme of the FIN: NANOPARTICLES theme and made significant impact on a number of new disciplines. We used the developed theory for electrostatic forces in many-body systems to explore new routes to the electrostatically driven self-assembly of new nanomaterials and to underpin the development of new molecular dynamics modelling methods for studying the many-particle collision processes. We further applied the developed theory to elucidate the mechanisms for formation of simple organic compounds on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn. We have extended this work to build a new international, interdisciplinary team of scientists from the UK, Russia, France, Sweden and Germany collaborating on fundamental studies of native behaviour and manipulation of charged nanoscale objects in planetary environments with focus on lunar regolith.

In the FIN: NANOMATERIALS theme, reaching far beyond our original vision, we developed new methodologies for deriving thermodynamic and kinetic parameters of chemical reactions from the observation of these transformations, atom-by-atom and bond-by-bond in the transmission electron microscope (TEM). This development involved many key considerations including optimum set-up of the optical and recording system of TEM; theoretically predicted requirements for the accessibility of a chemical transformation for observation such as signal-to-noise ratio; correlation between and separation of the electron beam induced reactions and laboratory thermally activated chemical reactions. This approach provided a realistic representation of the imaging process as well as a quantitative assessment of kinetic parameters of observed atomistic reactions, such as diffusion coefficients, cross sections, activation energies and other chemical constants. It has established the transmission electron microscope as an effective tool for direct quantitative measurement of dynamic characteristics of chemical processes.

Since the start of the project, we published 56 papers of the highest calibre, including publications in Nature Chemistry (impact factor 25.9), ACS Nano (impact factor 13.3), Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (impact factor 9.4), Journal of the American Chemical Society (impact factor 13.9), Accounts of Chemical Research Society (impact factor 20.3), Chemical Society Reviews (impact factor 38.6), amongst many other high impact journals. For the duration of the grant we employed 9 PDRAs, most of them subsequently took up independent research or academic positions in Europe or worldwide. The ERC FIN grant further contributed to graduating, or soon be graduated, of 11 PhD students. It has generated significant additional research funding from Leverhulme Trust and EPSRC UK, major multinational pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKlein (GSK), European Cooperation in the field of Scientific and Technical Research (COST), and the International Space Science Institute (ISSI) Switzerland.

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United Kingdom
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