Nottingham University Launches First-of-its-kind Equipment for Chemical Imaging of Materials, Cells & Tissues

The University of Nottingham launched unique, first-of-its-kind equipment, 3DOrbiSIMS, which allows label-free chemical imaging of materials, cells and tissues, with the potential to transform research in these areas.

3DOrbiSIMS will have applications in a multi-disciplinary range of research areas. These areas include biomedical implants, drug delivery systems, developing strategies to tackle antimicrobial resistance, organic electronic devices and engineering applications.

Researchers have led the discovery of bacteria resistant materials that are now being trailed in catheters to reduce infection rates.

3DOrbiSIMS provides the capability to identify biological molecules in samples from complex biological environments, such as the human body, without being restricted by our existing understanding.

It helps to gain the knowledge of the fundamental processes underlying biological responses, explaining why bacteria colonise certain plastics and not others.

3DOrbiSIMS also provides the opportunity to identify and locate known compounds such as drug molecules in biological samples like human cells, which is critical in the development of future generations of drug therapy.

3DOrbiSIMS is used for research into the fight against antimicrobial resistance where the insight provided can further the understanding of medical device colonisation and biofilm formation.

Other uses include the localistaion of nano therapeutics to support the development of intracellualr therapeutic delivery of surface engineered nanoparticles and their identification in tissue such as skin.
Projects within engineering will include the support of additive manufacturing, via detailed chemical analysis of complex 3D printed materials, as well the identification of complex organic deposits upon engine components to enable improved efficiency in the use of fossil fuels.

The 3DOrbiSIMS is a time of flight secondary ion mass spectrometer (ToF-SIMS) with unique state-of-the-art 3D imaging capability that achieves unprecedented mass resolution through the integration of a high specification OrbitrapTM mass spectrometer.

The instrument is also capable of extremely high spatial resolution. The facility is also complemented by high pressure freezing cryo-preparation facilities that enable biological samples to be maintained close to their original state allowing the native structure of hydrated samples such as stem cells and bacteria to be studied.

It allows label-free molecular characterisation, producing an uncompromisingly accurate portrayal of the true chemical 3D internal environment of a sample at high lateral (<100>