The Photophysics Group has positioned itself in interdisciplinary molecular research using time-resolved fluorescence. Through novel approaches we are playing our part in solving the complexities associated with biomolecules, skin, colloids, and nanoparticles that are part of the research journey from molecules to humans. We are among the pioneers of modern-day fluorescence lifetime spectroscopy as well as the initiator and driving force behind Scotland being the global manufacturing centre for single-photon fluorescence lifetime instrumentation. Many of the techniques and instrumentation first published by the Group are now in widespread use and standards in the field. For example, multiplexed time-correlated single-photon counting has become the method of choice for fluorescence lifetime imaging (FLIM).
Our present emphasis addresses grand challenges at the biomedical and nanometrology interface. Current programmes include the aggregation of biomolecules e.g. eumelanin structure and formation; fibrils of beta-amyloid and Alzheimer’s disease; gold nanoparticle photophysics and application in sensing and imaging; silica nanoparticle formation and metrology in the 1-10 nm range; metabolic sensing e.g. glucose for diabetes; and biomolecular structure and dynamics down to the single molecule level.
We have built strategic collaborations in order to help achieve success. In combination with Professor Duncan Graham and colleagues in Chemistry we launched in 2005 the Centre for Molecular Nanometrology. This led directly to the Physics-Chemistry Bionanotechnology initiative that is one of the major research themes in the new £89m Technology and Innovation Centre. Our collaboration with Professor John Pickup and his team at Kings College London School of Medicine has made great strides towards improved glucose sensing technology. Our spin-off company, IBH, is part of the multinational Horiba group and the world-leader in fluorescence lifetime instrumentation.
We consistently win major funding to support our ideas, travel the globe to report our findings, organise major conferences and serve on international research panels. We have well-equipped and newly refurbished laboratories. Over 30 research students have successfully completed their PhD in the Group then moved into competitively won positions in academia and industry, many eventually holding senior posts such as professorships and company directorships.
In 2009 we initiated the FluoroFest series of global workshops on fluorescence. Sponsored by and co-organized with Horiba, FluoroFest has since become one of the leading events in the field and will be held in Cambridge Massachusetts and Starnberg in Germany in 2015. In 2011 we led the organization of the Nano Meets Spectroscopy (NMS) conference at NPL and in 2013 co-launched a new Institute of Physics journal for the field of fluorescence.