Spotlight: Analysis and microscopy

Materials World magazine
1 Mar 2014

Rhiannon Garth Jones looks at some recent advancements in the field. 

We all know the phrase ‘a workman is only as good as his tools’, and it applies to researchers and manufacturers as much as plumbers and builders. New improvements in microscopes and analysis tools bode well for those who rely on them.

Oxford Instruments, based in the UK, has created a state-of-the-art multi-technique deposition and analysis cluster tool for the University of Waterloo, Canada. A multi-chamber design enables the cluster system to grow and analyse new, high-quality thin film and layered structure materials under ultra-high vacuum conditions. It has molecular beam epitaxy capability and UHV sputtering methods for use on multiple materials within the same device, including metal oxides as well as superconductors. In addition, the system offers X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy analysis of samples.

USA-based firm Hiden Analytical has expanded its range of membrane-assisted spectrometers to meet the needs of new investigative and processing techniques requiring measurement of dissolved gases in aqueous solution. An adaptable cuvette-style sampling cell for measurement of photosensitive reaction products and an innovative electrochemical  cell for characterisation of electrocatalytic activity have been added. A semi-permeable membrane provides a water barrier that preferentially transmits gaseous species, allowing for mass spectrometry analysis of dissolved gases and vapours.

The Thermo Scientific DXRxi Raman imaging microscope, introduced by Thermo Fisher Scientific, USA, is designed to quickly reveal molecular structure, chemical composition and sample morphology. Users can quickly profile materials through information rich chemical images and the image-centric software interface. The microscope can be used to analyse large areas in a variety of fields, from biological tissue to carbon nanotube research, and requires no spectroscopic expertise to interpret.

A software solution designed to increase the ease of analysis has been introduced by Swedish firm Umetrics. Graphical interfaces and data visualisation aid the interpretation of results, and the probability contour plot feature shows the likelihood of success or failure, according to desired criteria. Variables in parameters, processes and measurement systems can be incorporated into data analysis.

With tools like these, the industry looks set to build on its own recent advances.