Spotlight: Under The microscope - improved analysis equipment

Materials World magazine
1 Aug 2013

Increasingly powerful microscopes are often at the forefront of scientific developments and discoveries. Improved equipment in this area is valuable for researchers working across a huge variety of fields.  

A new 3D scanning microscope from Olympus offers enhanced images and faster scanning for more efficient studies. A wide-field area map display of the sample under low magnification is always visible, making navigation around the sample easy, even at high magnifications. The system can also seamlessly create single images from several individual captures. This composite image can then be viewed in 2D or 3D. Image acquisition is faster than on previous models using automatic Z-axis adjustment across large areas. The device also features an ultra-fast mode for applications requiring the highest level of precision. Faster still is the Band Scan mode, capable of scanning a specified region rather than an entire sample. Imaging through multiple layers is also possible using the new multilayer mode, which recognises each separate layer as a distinct focal plane along the Z-axis. Accurate inspection and measurement of each layer is possible even when measuring the roughness and thickness of multiple transparent layers, including transparent resins laid over glass substrate.

But it is not just the microscopes driving progress. Lighting and imaging software are also responsible for advances in this area. Ultrabright LEDs from Ultrafine Technologies are being used to create powerful white light illumination for microscopy applications. While halogen or metal halide lamps are traditionally used, LED ring lights reduce costs and wasted time replacing bulbs, because the lights have a lifetime of more than 30,000 hours. The LS-4000 lights also produce 20% more light using half the power of conventional light sources, giving the LEDs a lifetime cost four times lower than the alternative. The neutral white light of the LEDs is ideal for colour rendering and the unit is suitable for plastic optical fibre light guides, which are otherwise unusable due to the amount of heat produced.

Developments are also improving spectrometer equipment. Hiden Analytical has released three new systems for secondary mass spectrometry. The systems are suitable for surface analysis and surface depth profiling of a diverse range of materials. The MAXIM mass spectrometer can be operated in secondary ion mode and in the secondary neutral quantification mode. The Foundation SIMS System includes the IG20 fine-focus oxygen and argon ion gun, multiple sample holder and a primary ion beam monitor. The MASsoft Professional SIMS PC data system provides automated measurement of positive and negative ions of neutral species.

These are just some of the ways in which analysis and microscopy equipment is improving for scientists.

Next month’s Spotlight is on quality