Obituary – Dr Allen Robert Waugh

Fellows' Lounge
1 Jun 2016

Dr Allen Robert 'Bob' Waugh 1950–2016

Dr Bob Waugh was one of the world’s top electron optical engineers, and developed the first commercial focused ion beam (FIB), which is now used in laboratories worldwide for transmission electron microscopy (TEM) specimen preparation and surface chemical analysis.

Bob Waugh obtained his first degree in Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge and went on to a PhD in the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy, in the Field Ion Microscopy group. The technique is capable of atomic resolution and the Cambridge group led its application to metallurgical problems. Waugh turned out to be a master at ion-optical design and built atom probes that were capable of imaging atoms and determining their elemental identity. The expertise he developed at Cambridge in time-of-flight mass spectrometry were to provide the inspiration for his future achievements in industry.

Waugh joined VG Scientific Ltd in 1981. The company was a world leader in high tech instrumentation for surface analysis, attracting the country’s brightest young scientists. Waugh recognised that the liquid gallium metal ion source invented at Culham was ideally suited for focusing into a small spot. He modified the Culham design to insert it into an existing VG 10kV electron gun column, reversed the polarities of the focusing electrodes and almost instantly produced a 100nm FIB. He swiftly improved the focus to 50nm using a 30kV column. Since VG Scientific was a surface analysis company, the immediate application was high spatial resolution secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) using a quadrupole mass spectrometer. The technique produced spectacular elemental images with 50nm resolution and extremely high detection limits. The high current density produced by the FIB was also ideal for micro-machining and VG also launched an ion beam lithography machine. However, the ‘killer application’ of FIB for TEM specimen preparation occurred some years later.

Waugh had taken his atom probe expertise from Cambridge and VG commercialised the technique using a ‘Poschenreider’ time-of-flight (TOF) mass spectrometer. By pulsing the FIB source, the TOF could be used to image and analyse organic molecules on surfaces because TOF has unlimited mass range. The world’s first imaging TOFSIMS was designed by Waugh and tested in 1985/86. It has since become a standard technique with wide ranging materials science applications. This was the first use of TOF in VG, and a sister company, VG Analytical, realised its potential as a mass spectrometer tool. Instruments were designed using different pulsed sources. The technique eventually resulted in MALDI-TOF – used for organic, pharmaceutical and medical analysis. 

After leaving VG, Waugh went on to develop magnetron sputtering machines for optical coatings and depositing anti-reflection coatings on spectacle lenses. His work led to important patents on machine and process designs. This equipment was used by retail optician stores offering a ‘one hour’ service. Applied Vision won the Queen’s Award for Technological Achievement in 1997.

Allen Robert Waugh was born on 1 January 1950 and died on 23 March 2016. He is survived by his wife Sally and their two sons.

Professor Michael Walls BSc PhD CEng CPhys MIMMM FInstP