Nano-scale physics and the life sciences

The Department is very active in nano-scale physics and the physics-life sciences interface, with leading roles in University-wide initiatives taken by Peter Dunstan and Helmut Telle.

The fundamental understanding of the electronic, structural, chemical and optical properties of materials on the nano-scale is essential for advances in nanotechnology, in particular the development of new devices via the incorporation of novel materials. Advances in experimental physics underpin these developments via characterisation and quantification of quantum phenomena which dominate at these length scales.

The research of Peter and Helmut’s teams concentrates on two main areas: determining properties of materials (e.g., graphene) on the nano-scale using scanning probe based techniques; the development of imaging and laser based spectroscopic techniques to study biological samples (e.g., imaging of cellular components and bacteria).

Peter and Helmut have greatly expanded the AMPQ group activities in biological applications, developing lasting cross-disciplinary collaborations, initially via the Multidisciplinary Nanotechnology Centre (MNC, College of Engineering), but more recently via the University's Institute of Life Science (ILS). They have establishing laboratories within the ILS, and in particular in the development of new scanning microscopy and Raman spectroscopy facilities in the Centre for NanoHealth (CNH), a £21M joint initiative between the Colleges of Medicine, Science and Engineering at Swansea University, in partnership with industry and the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board.

As members of the CNH, Dunstan and Telle have acquired state of the art (£1M) facilities to expand spectroscopy techniques into soft matter characterization and produced novel equipment platforms that exploit and combine scanning probe technologies and nano-scale optical spectroscopy, creating a unique facility for basic research and collaboration.

Examples of some current projects indicate that the team’s research programme now embraces the Physics–Life Sciences interface. Projects such as: applications of nano-particle signal reporters for studying intracellular mechanisms; and a Raman spectroscopy study of blood combined with multivariate spectral analysis for disease diagnosis, prognosis and risk prediction.