Advances in Microscopy

Materials World magazine
,
26 Nov 2012

Advances in microscope technology are stretching the capabilities of laboratories and improving our knowledge of materials. Rachel Lawler reports.

One of the world’s most powerful high-resolution microscopes has been installed at the University of Manchester, UK. The Titan G2 80-200 scanning transmission electron microscope has been placed in the university’s School of Materials as part of an £8m investment into nuclear research by UK Government. The microscope uses ChemiSTEM Technology, developed by FEI, producer and distributer of microscopes, to provide element-specific imaging at atomic resolution, to allow researchers to study the structure and elemental composition of nuclear materials at atomic level. But this project is not the only development in the field. Microscopy manufacturers are improving the software and adding adaptations to their products in order to create better equipment for everyday use in the laboratory.

One such example includes WITec’s TrueSurface microscopy software, which is now available as an integrated option for the alpha300 microscope series. The system measures the surface topography of large samples and correlates it with confocal Raman microscopy. This allows rough samples to be chemically characterised precisely and easily while the sample is being confocally imaged, removing the need for extra samples to be prepared.

Olympus has also improved software in the updated version of its LEXT OLS4000 confocal laser-scanning microscope. The system features a new 3D multilayer function that can measure transparent layers, allowing for accurate measurement and subsequent analysis of multiple layers within a single sample. As a result, users can obtain 3D images to assess surface metrology with ease and accuracy. The CLSM design of the LEXT OLS4000 facilitates non-contract measurement of surface roughness. This allows users to measure the micro-geometries at high resolution without damaging sample integrity. A multilayer mode enables users to recognise the peaks of reflected light intensities on multiple layers within a sample. As well as these new features, the system also offers an increased speed up to 10 times faster than the previous model.

Another development can be seen in Hitachi’s HT7700 120kV transmission electron microscope, which has been updated with a new high-resolution pole piece option. This uses the device’s double-gap objective lens technology with minimised spherical aberration to provide enhanced resolution. These features make the device particularly well suited to the low voltage, high-resolution examination of engineered light element materials.