Spotlight: Scope for improvement

Materials World magazine
4 Aug 2014

It’s not just advances in the lenses of microscopes that lead to improvements in science. New techniques, software and accessories all help to push boundaries further.


Tescan, based in the Czech Republic, and German firm WITec GmbH have released a new correlative technique that combines confocal Raman imaging and scanning electron microscopy within one system (RISE). Both SEM and Raman images can be acquired and analysed from the same sample area. The RISE technique can generate 2D and 3D images as well as depth profiles, enabling visualisation of the distribution of the molecular compounds within a single sample.

Japan-based firm Rigaku has developed a smart sample loading system to enhance its wavelength dispersive X-ray fluorescence (WDXRF) spectrometers. The system has a higher unattended throughput and improved accuracy of data transmission to reduce tracking errors, and the direct transfer of samples to the analysis port enables greater productivity. The software allows for automated analysis interface and communication with control computers. A flexible combination of sample trays in different sizes is also included.

A sample holder for atomic-resolution imaging at elevated temperatures and applied electrical bias has been created by US firm FEI. The aim is to support TEM’s ability to observe the effects of heating and electrical bias on nanostructured materials during in-situ experiments. The holder uses a micro-electromechanical system that can heat samples to more than 1,000°C for the heating element, reducing thermal drift and improving image resolution in experiments. Nanoparticles and FIB-prepared lamellae are compatible with the holder.

Another US firm, X-rite Inc, has created a new option to increase the speed, flexibility and quality control of its eXact spectrophotometers, used in the printing and packaging industries. The option makes possible more accurate readings of conventional and non-continuous strips for quality assurance applications, such as flexo printing. Data transfer for further analysis will be supported, as will real-time measurement results.

The continuous improvements being made to maximise existing technology will surely aid budgets as well as growth.