Skip to main content

SDU MCI at the forefront of NANOCHEM - a unique national infrastructure for imaging chemical information at the nanoscale

The Mads Clausen Institute at SDU in Sønderborg is spearheading NANOCHEM, a new national infrastructure that enables a greater understanding of how chemistry works at the nanoscale. Understanding these chemical processes is important as they are crucial in both the biological and electronic worlds. NANOCHEM is a collaboration between leading Danish universities with the University of Southern Denmark at the centre.

By Sune Holst, , 3/21/2024

60 million kroner. This is the budget for the national infrastructure for imaging chemical information at the nanoscale, NANOCHEM. The National Committee for Research Infrastructure is donating DKK 30.2 million, while the Bitten & Mads Clausen Foundation has contributed DKK 10.3 million. And with co-financing, the infrastructure will reach a total of DKK 60 million. NANOCHEM is the first national infrastructure led by the Mads Clausen Institute in Sønderborg.

"NANOCHEM will be crucial both for the green transition and for understanding fundamental biochemical processes. With this new infrastructure, we can explore chemical processes and thus develop materials at an unprecedented level of detail," says Professor Horst-Günter Rubahn, who, in addition to being head of the Mads Clausen Institute at SDU, also is the head of NANOCHEM.

What is chemical imaging at the nanoscale?

NANOCHEM brings together instruments that enable chemical imaging, i.e., imaging with information about which elements are in play. The technologies behind these instruments make it possible to see and analyse materials at the atomic and molecular level.
"Imagine being able to not only see the structure of something magnified a billion times, but also being able to identify what material you're looking at. The crucial extra information about elements is  incredibly difficult to obtain at the atomic level if you want to create images immediately," says Professor Horst-Günter Rubahn.

Overall, NANOCHEM enables researchers to gain a deeper understanding of the composition, properties and changes in materials, which is essential for innovation in many areas, not least within the green transition.

Potential and perspectives

NANOCHEM will be a valuable tool in the development of new materials and technologies. This could be anything from optimising solar cells to creating more robust electronic components or medical implants that are durable in the body.

"The possibilities with NANOCHEM are only limited by the number of hours that researchers can use the instruments. We can thus contribute to solving some of our biggest societal challenges in areas such as sustainable energy and health technology," says Horst-Günter Rubahn, adding that, for example, efforts are being made to develop new materials with very special properties such as improved strength, lighter weight or better electrical conductivity. These materials are essential for the design of more efficient renewable energy systems such as solar panels or wind turbines.

"Another example would be electric cars. By understanding the chemical changes in batteries at the nanoscale, researchers can develop better energy storage solutions, which ultimately means better, longer-lasting batteries. But, as mentioned earlier, the applications are numerous. I could also mention biofuels as an area where nanoscale chemical imaging can help with development," explains Horst-Günter Rubahn.

This new infrastructure will therefore strengthen Denmark's position as a leading country in research and development, with far-reaching positive effects on the economy and employment.


NANOCHEM - A national infrastructure for innovation

The NANOCHEM agreement, which is on the Danish national roadmap for infrastructure, was signed in October 2023. In collaboration with DTU and Aalborg University, the centre will combine projects and advanced characterisation equipment to promote research and development in a wide range of areas, from developing the foods of the future to identifying plastic particles and characterising advanced semiconductors in new electronic components.

Existing bio-imaging facilities in Odense and imaging facilities in Sønderborg including a Helium ion super microscope will be upgraded and expanded by NANOCHEM. NANOCHEM is the first national infrastructure led by the Mads Clausen Institute in Sønderborg. The Bitten & Mads Clausen Foundation has contributed DKK 10.3 million to NANOCHEM as part of the co-financing for the purchase of advanced instruments. The infrastructure also receives DKK 30.2 million from the National Committee for Research Infrastructure, and with co-financing, has a total budget of more than DKK 60 million.

As a national infrastructure, NANOCHEM is available to researchers and interested employees from not only SDU, DTU and AAU, but also from other universities and especially industry, which is why there are high expectations for the impact NANOCHEM can have. In close collaboration with industry, NANOCHEM will help position Denmark as a leading nation in advanced materials research - not only in a European context, but also globally. New, smart materials are a decisive factor for everything from new electronics to benefit the green transition to new medicines and artificial food.

Editing was completed: 21.03.2024