Nanoparticle nose

A tiny fraction of a millimetre in size, nanoparticles in the environment are made naturally by volcanos, sea-spray and chemical reactions in the atmosphere.

Nanoparticles can also come from welding and grinding, power plants and vehicle exhausts. In the centre of London, 50% of the nanoparticles in the air are made by human activity.

Kent-based Naneum make portable miniaturised instruments to sniff out and identify nanoparticles.

Naneum instruments are being used to investigate climate change, assess workplace air-quality, and study health implications of breathing in nanoparticles.

“We feel very proud that Naneum Instruments are a very good example of how leading-edge physics can have practical and beneficial applications for society,” says Dr Robert Muir, Naneum CEO.

Naneum is the winner of a 2012 Innovation Award from the Institute of Physics celebrating companies that make the most of applying physics in a commercial environment.

Dr Robert Muir, CEO, Naneum

Dr Robert Muir, CEO, Naneum

Transcript

Dr Robert Muir: Naneum was founded in 2005. The aim of Naneum was to manufacture – design and manufacture – leading edge products that would make it easy for researchers to make in situ measurements of airborne nanoparticles.

Our flagship product is the NPS-500. This is an instrument for characterising, sizing and reporting the size distributions of nanoparticles in the air. We developed this product from an identified market need. We saw that the instruments that were able to perform the functions at the present time were laboratory-bound instruments. They were large, they were immobile and they could not be used except by highly trained engineers.

We set out to make a miniaturised instrument that could be transported to the source of the nanoparticles and that could be used by any well trained engineer.

Brian Steer: Nanoparticles in the environment come from both natural and human sources. Natural sources include chemical reactions in the atmosphere, as well as volcanos and sea-spray. Human sources include manufacturing processes such as welding and grinding processes, and combustion sources such as power plants and of course car exhausts.

Nanoparticles in the air can be made by traffic

Nanoparticles in the air can be made by traffic

Dr Robert Muir: If you go into urban areas, for instance the centre of London where we’ve made some measurements on Oxford Street, up to 50% of the nanoparticles in the air will be generated by man-made processes. Nanoparticles in particular deposit themselves deep in the respiratory tract, in the lungs, in the air exchange region.

The jury is out on the dangers of nanoparticles but of course investigating the exposure and making the relevant studies to see what those hazards are is very important. And that’s where Naneum Instruments come in. They’re being designed and they’re ideal for doing those experiments.

The NPS500 measures particles in the size range from 5 nanometres up to 500 nanometres. The way it does this is that it separates the particles according to size, through an electrostatic size classifier.

Brian Steer: This is the sizing component of the NPS500. It works by passing an air flow through two metal plates – two electrodes – across which a high voltage is applied. The nanoparticles are sized by choosing a particular voltage and with that voltage you choose a particular size nanoparticle.

Electrostatic nanoparticle sizer

Electrostatic nanoparticle sizer

Dr Robert Muir: The particles that come out of this classifier, or sizer, are too small to be seen by normal instrument so we have to grow them in what’s known as a condensation particle counter.

Brian Steer: The nanoparticles are mixed with the vapour from a heated fluid. This vapour is then condensed onto the condenser to grow the nanoparticles from say 10 or 100 nanometres in size up to about a micron, where they can easily be detected.

The particular innovations of this product are the electrostatic classifier, firstly is of a different design to what has traditionally been used. This allows it to be much smaller, compact, and therefore portable compared to traditional instruments.

Naneum development labs

Naneum development labs

Dr Robert Muir: Winning the Innovation Award is a tremendous boost to us. It really makes us feel very much recognised and at the forefront of physics. We feel very proud that Naneum Instruments are a very good example of how applied science and applied leading-edge physics can have practical and beneficial applications for society.

Our instruments are now being used in areas such as climate investigations of climate change, looking at occupational hygiene issues, looking at health issues, inhalation, toxicology.

These are things that will benefit people in the future and we feel very proud that our instruments are used in that way.

Brian Steer, Naneum

Brian Steer, Naneum

About the film

Filmed on location at:

  • Naneum, Canterbury Innovation Centre, Canterbury, UK. September 2012.

Director: Martyn Bull
Producer: Thomas Delfs
Camera: Mark Whatmore
Editors: Liam Angell, Mike Willbourne
Cast: Dr Robert Muir, Dr Brian Steer

Production company: insitu
Client: Institute of Physics

Camera: RED Epic, Canon 550D

Further reading

60 second science: Liquid crystal labels

ZBD Solutions has developed a special low-power, black and white LCD display that holds an image even when no power is applied.

ZBD Solutions is the winner of a 2012 Innovation Award from the Institute of Physics celebrating companies that make the most of applying physics in a commercial environment.

Self-updating LCD displays from ZBD solutions

Self-updating LCD displays from ZBD solutions

Transcript

Dr Cliff Jones: We are ZBD Displays Limited. We’re a novel displays company selling things like electronic shelf edge labels.

The key invention of the ZBD device is to put a sub-micron texture onto the surface of the glass thereby keeping the image on the display even when the power is removed.

ZBD today is not just about the display technology. Each display unit can be wirelessly updated using a two-way transceiver device called Bounce.

Shaun Gray: The reason that we chose the retail market place as the point of entry was it was the one area where there was a first generation market to which we clearly showed an improvement in the quality of the overall solution including the RF.

Dr Emma Wood: Every time I see a box of displays arrive, I think back to the very first displays that we made and there’s an element of disbelief when I realise how many we’ve made now. It’s an amazing feeling.

About the film

Filmed on location at:

  • ZBD Displays, Malvern, UK. September 2012.

Director: Martyn Bull
Producer: Thomas Delfs
Camera: Mark Whatmore
Editors: Liam Angell, Mike Willbourne
Cast: Dr Cliff Jones, Shaun Gray, Dr Emma Wood

Production company: insitu
Client: Institute of Physics

Camera: RED Epic, Canon 550D

Further reading

Sound economics: a silent micropump for medicine

Increasing demand for more portable medical devices led The Technology Partnership (TTP) to design small, noiseless, high-volume air pumps allowing patients to carry on with daily life rather than staying in bed in hospital.

The Cambridgeshire company is pushing the boundaries of technology. Their novel micropump combines a deep understanding of non-linear acoustic resonance, piezoelectric materials and fluid dynamics.

“There’s nothing more satisfying than taking a technology that you’ve helped to create and develop, seeing it being manufactured in volume, and beyond that to seeing it being used in a product that affects people’s lives in a positive way,” says product manager James McCrone.

TTP is the winner of a 2012 Innovation Award from the Institute of Physics celebrating companies that make the most of applying physics in a commercial environment.

Assembling DiscPump

Assembling DiscPump

Transcript

Sam Hyde: TTP creates new products and new technologies for our clients across the healthcare, communications, consumer and industrial space.

James McCrone: TTP had created this novel micropump [DiscPump] and we were looking for new applications of this, new products that we could take this into. Looking at the medical space, where there is a demand for more portable products, perhaps products that you can clip on your belt rather than having to wear over your shoulder, or products that enable you to get out of hospital and to carry on your daily life rather than staying in a bed in hospital.

We identified an American company that we took the technology to and very soon started work with to engineer DiscPump into a portable medical therapy device.

Laser cut components for DiscPump

Laser cut components for DiscPump

Stuart Hatfield: DiscPump is formed broadly of three main components. The valve is the one which requires the most assembly. It involves a stack of etched layers which are assembled and then aligned and then welded together. The second component is the actuator, so that’s the piezo and steel disc which provides the drive force for the pump. And then the third component is a simple moulded base.

The pump is then assembled by essentially gluing the valve into the base and then gluing the actuator onto a membrane and welding it onto the cavity.

Sam Hyde, CEO TTP - the technology partnership

Sam Hyde, CEO TTP – the technology partnership

Sam Hyde: Physics is a vital part of our business. We are pushing the boundaries of what technology can achieve and that requires a deep understanding of the limitations of physics but also what it can do, and it’s important that we understand that so that we can deploy it in developing new products.

James McCrone: You often see people with devices that they’ve developed, where they’ve made one or ten and they feel that they’ve done most of the work. Actually, they may have had most of the inspiration but most of the work is still left to do. It’s about converting from that one to ten level, to being able to produce the tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands.

James McCrone, DiscPump product manager, TTP - the technology partnership

James McCrone, DiscPump product manager, TTP – the technology partnership

And that’s where I think TTP actually is quite unique because we have both the ability to have these creative ideas in the first place and to create genuinely new technology but also the ability to go through those later stages and turn it into a commercially realised, value generating product.

To see it coming off the production line is fantastic. At TPP, we’re a company full of scientists and engineers and I think most scientists and engineers are in it because they enjoy making things and seeing things happen, and I think there’s nothing more satisfying, really, than taking a technology that you’ve helped to create and develop and actually seeing it being manufactured in volume and beyond that to seeing it being used in a product that affects people’s lives in a positive way.

Sam Hyde: Traditionally, manufacturing of high-volume products would translate to the Far East. But with highly automated manufacturing, such as we use for DiscPump it’s possible to retain manufacturing in the UK and retain the skills and the value inside the UK market. And we’re very keen to manufacture our own ideas in the UK.

The UK has world class universities and world class graduates, particularly in physics, but across the range of scientists and being able to harness their skills in a commercial environment, resulting in products like DiscPump, is hugely valuable.

DiscPump production line

DiscPump production line

About the film

Filmed on location at:

  • TTP, Melbourne, Cambridgeshire, UK. September 2012.

Director: Martyn Bull
Producer: Thomas Delfs
Camera: Mark Whatmore
Editors: Liam Angell, Mike Willbourne
Cast: Dr Sam Hyde, Dr James McCrone, Dr Stuart Hatfield

Production company: insitu
Client: Institute of Physics

Camera: RED Epic, Canon 550D

Further reading

60 second science: 3D microscopic imaging

By returning to the very basics of how a microscope forms an image, Aurox have built a very simple instrument to provide affordable 3D imaging for laboratory microscopes.

Aurox is the winner of a 2012 Innovation Award from the Institute of Physics celebrating companies that make the most of applying physics in a commercial environment.

Aurox 3D microscopy attachment connected to Zeiss optical microscope

Aurox 3D microscopy attachment connected to Zeiss optical microscope

Transcript

Prof Tony Wilson: Aurox is essentially an applied optics company building specialised three-dimensional microscope imaging instruments.

Dr Rimas Juskaitis: Aurox is providing an instrument which is small and inexpensive enough to be attached to a conventional microscope that an independent researcher will already have in his lab.

Prof Tony Wilson: What we are trying to do is to add functionality to that microscope, to provide the three-dimensional imaging. With all optical microscopes, one ends up with a very good high-resolution in-focus image with blurred bits above and below. The whole idea of the Aurox product is to get rid of these blurred bits.

We modify the illumination of the microscope. It’s then a matter of clever optics and computer processing to have a wonderful three-dimensional representation of the whole object.

Dr Rimas Juskaitis: It’s a very satisfying experience when something that you worked on for many years finally gets released into the outer world and you get vey positive responses from the end users. I think this is the whole point why we do this.

About the film

Filmed on location at:

  • Aurox, Culham Science Centre, Culham, UK. September 2012.

Director: Martyn Bull
Producer: Thomas Delfs
Camera: Mark Whatmore
Editors: Liam Angell, Mike Willbourne
Cast: Professor Tony Wilson, Dr Rimas Juskaitis

Production company: insitu
Client: Institute of Physics

Camera: RED Epic, Canon 550D

Further reading

Self-updating LCD shelf labels

ZBD Solutions has developed a special low-power, black and white LCD display that holds an image even when no power is applied.

By applying a sub-micron texture onto the glass surface of a liquid crystal display, the e-paper displays can be manufactured at low cost on a conventional production line.

The tiny signs are also all wirelessly networked together, so when an items change price hundreds of e-paper displays can be updated in real-time from a central database.

ZBD Solutions is the winner of a 2012 Innovation Award from the Institute of Physics celebrating companies that make the most of applying physics in a commercial environment.

This film has been featured on Gizmodo and PSFK.

Self-updating LCD displays from ZBD solutions

Self-updating LCD displays from ZBD solutions

Transcript

Dr Cliff Jones: We are ZBD Displays Ltd. We’re a novel displays company selling mainly into the retail sector things like electronic shelf edge labels.

Shaun Gray: We recognised that it didn’t take very much additional work to turn just the LCD glass into a functioning display with all the suitable electronics. If you could combine it with good networking then you could create a differentiated solution.

Dr Cliff Jones: A conventional LCD is constructed from two glass plates containing a liquid crystal. Liquid crystal is an organic material made of long, thin molecules that can re-orientate under the application of an electric field. This means that if a display is made to appear white, applying a field across it gets it to switch to black. If the power is removed, all of the pixels will relax back within a fraction of a second, back to the white state.

Dr Cliff Jones and Dr Guy Bryan-Brown, co-founders of ZBD solutions

Dr Cliff Jones and Dr Guy Bryan-Brown, co-founders of ZBD solutions

The key invention of the ZBD device is to put a sub-micron texture onto the surface of the glass. What this does is hold the liquid crystal in either the black or the white states, thereby keeping the image on the display even when the power is removed.

Dr Emma Wood: We define the master grating by photolithography using a mask. We then take the master and we transfer it into a nickel electro-form using standard DVD/CD-type technology that is scaled up for us.

Sub-micron textured film at ZBD Solutions

Sub-micron textured film at ZBD Solutions

We have very small features defined on our master grating surface – just 400 nanometres wide, 1.1 microns high – and we have to control those, control the uniformity of those, – across the whole grating area.

Dr Cliff Jones: My co-inventor, Guy Bryan-Brown, and I were working on different ways of improving standard LCDs. We wanted to make them have more image content, to be low power, to be flexible. ZBD is one of the key inventions from that period.

Dr Emma Wood: When the nickel is continuously cast we end up with a film product which copies the structure many, many times and so for every nickel part we get many, many thousands of film examples. These film examples go to the LCD manufacturer, who uses them to define the grating on the LCD substrate.

Preparing sub-micron films at ZBD Solutions

Preparing sub-micron films at ZBD Solutions

Dr Cliff Jones: So ZBD today is not just about the display technology. We now provide a complete system for the retailer to use. Each display unit can be wirelessly updated using a two-way RF transceiver device called ‘Bounce’.

Shaun Gray: The reason that we chose the retail marketplace as the point of entry was it was the one area where there was a first generation market to which we clearly showed an improvement, not only in the quality of the display but also the quality of the overall solution, including the RF.

Dr Emma Wood: Every time I see a box of displays arrive, I think back to the very first displays that we made that attracted the seed capital that allowed us to start the company and there is an element of disbelief when I look at those boxes and I realise how many we’ve made now. It’s an amazing feeling.

Dr Emma Wood, co-founder of ZBD Solutions

Dr Emma Wood, co-founder of ZBD Solutions

About the film

Filmed on location at:

  • ZBD Displays, Malvern, UK. September 2012.

Director: Martyn Bull
Producer: Thomas Delfs
Camera: Mark Whatmore
Editors: Liam Angell, Mike Willbourne
Cast: Dr Cliff Jones, Shaun Gray, Dr Emma Wood

Production company: insitu
Client: Institute of Physics

Camera: RED Epic, Canon 550D

Further reading

60 second science: Medical micropump

Increasing demand for more portable medical devices led The Technology Partnership to design small, noiseless, high-volume air pumps allowing patients to carry on with daily life rather than staying in bed in hospital.

The Technology Partnership is the winner of a 2012 Innovation Award from the Institute of Physics celebrating companies that make the most of applying physics in a commercial environment.

DiscPump production line

DiscPump production line

Transcript

Sam Hyde: TTP creates new products and technologies across the healthcare, communications, consumer, industrial space.

James McCrone: TTP had created this novel micropump and we were looking for new applciations of this, new products that we could take this into.  We identified an Amaerican company that we took the technology to, and very soon we started work with them to engineer disc pump into a portable medical therapy device.

James McCrone: To see it coming off the production line is fantastic and I think there’s nothing more satisfying really than taking a technology that you’ve helped to create and develop and actually see it being manufactured in volume. And, beyond that, to see it being used in a product that affects people’s lives in a positive way.

Sam Hyde: The UK has world class graduates, particularly in physics, and being able to harness their skills in a commercial environment resulting in products like disc pump is hugely valuable.

About the film

Filmed on location at:

  • TTP, Melbourne, Cambridgeshire, UK. September 2012.

Director: Martyn Bull
Producer: Thomas Delfs
Camera: Mark Whatmore
Editors: Liam Angell, Mike Willbourne
Cast: Sam Hyde, James McCrone

Production company: insitu
Client: Institute of Physics

Camera: RED Epic, Canon 550D

Assembly line footage: TTP

Further reading

Real-time 3D microscopy

By returning to the very basics of how a microscope forms an image, Aurox have built a very simple instrument to provide affordable 3D imaging for laboratory microscopes.

“We modify the illumination of the microscope so that we project a pattern of lines onto the specimen. It’s then a matter of clever optics and computer processing to reveal a thin, in-focus, optical section of the thick specimen,” says Professor Tony Wilson from Aurox. “We then physically focus through the whole thickness of the specimen recording these thin sections at each plane and to have a wonderful three-dimensional representation of the whole object.”

The product is now sold as an inexpensive add-on by Carl Zeiss that can be attached to any standard optical microscope making 3D microscopy accessible to individual researchers.

Oxfordshire-base Aurox is the winner of a 2012 Innovation Award from the Institute of Physics celebrating companies that make the most of applying physics in a commercial environment.

Professor Tony Wilson and Dr Rimas Juskaitis, Aurox

Professor Tony Wilson and Dr Rimas Juskaitis, Aurox

Transcript

Prof Tony Wilson: Aurox is essentially an applied optics company building specialised three-dimensional microscope imaging instruments. The extra things that we need for the Aurox product to work are clearly the conventional microscope but also a CCD camera to capture the image. So we have partnered with two people on the one hand we have partnered with Carl Zeiss, who of course have the microscopes and we’ve also partnered with Andor plc, based in Belfast, who provide the high-resolution, high-specification CCD cameras. These are our two main routes to market.

By going back to the real basic physics of how a microscope forms an image, the kind of thing Ernst Abbe understood at the end of the 19th century, and ignoring all the recent work, one can really build a very simple instrument to provide three-dimensional imaging inexpensively and hence fits a niche in the microscope imaging market.

Professor Tony Wilson, Aurox

Professor Tony Wilson, Aurox

Dr Rimas Juskaitis: The way 3D microscopy typically works these days is that when the university buys a confocal microscope it doesn’t go into the lab, it does go into a central imaging facility and it’s because it’s big, expensive, needs to be maintained. Each individual researcher books time and does imaging in the central facility.

What Aurox is doing is providing an instrument which is small and inexpensive enough to be attached to a conventional microscope that an individual researcher will already have in his lab.

Prof Tony Wilson: With all optical microscopes if one looks at an image, a high resolution image of say a biological specimen, which will be a three-dimensional specimen, one ends up with a very good high-resolution, in-focus image of the part in the focal plane, with blurred bits above and below. And the whole idea of the Aurox product is to get rid of these blurred bits.

Dr Rimas Juskaitis, Aurox

Dr Rimas Juskaitis, Aurox

Dr Rimas Juskaitis: Going out into the real world and trying to actually convert your ideas into a product is a very big psychological step. It’s not to be taken lightly. The specifics of the product and how it has to work always first time, with not necessarily the best person operating it is very different from what you do in the lab for yourself, for a one-off experiment. And so I would say this was the most difficult part to get through.

Prof Tony Wilson: We modify the illumination of the microscope so that we project a pattern of lines onto the specimen. It’s then a matter of clever optics and computer processing to remove the parts of the specimen where there are no lines. It’s then a matter of removing the lines from this thin section near the optical focal plane and that will reveal a thin, in focus, optical section of the thick specimen. We then physically focus through the whole thickness of the specimen recording these thin sections at each plane and then we replay in the computer to have a wonderful 3-dimensional representation of the whole object.

Focal plane slice through a frog using Aurox 3D microscope imaging

Focal plane slice through a frog using Aurox 3D microscope imaging

Dr Rimas Juskaitis: We had a lot of work on our hands trying to persuade that this thing, for which you would pay perhaps a small percentage of what you would normally pay, can actually do as good a job as a bigger machine.

Prof Tony Wilson: The Aurox product is based on the fact that most people have a conventional microscope in their lab and so what we are trying to do is to add functionality to that microscope to provide 3-dimensional imaging. So I’m tremendously pleased that by our work in optics we are able to allow people in the biosciences to really explore the structure of living cells.

Dr Rimas Juskaitis: It’s a very satisfying experience when something that you worked on for many years first as a researcher and then as a developer, finally gets released into the outer world and you get very positive responses from the end users. I think this is the whole point of why we do this.

Aurox 3D microscopy attachment connected to Zeiss optical microscope

Aurox 3D microscopy attachment connected to Zeiss optical microscope

About the film

Filmed on location at:

  • Aurox, Culham Science Centre, Culham, UK. September 2012.

Director: Martyn Bull
Producer: Thomas Delfs
Camera: Mark Whatmore
Editors: Liam Angell, Mike Willbourne
Cast: Professor Tony Wilson, Dr Rimas Juskaitis

Production company: insitu
Client: Institute of Physics

Camera: RED Epic, Canon 550D

Further reading