Spotlight: Microscopic improvements

Materials World magazine
26 Nov 2013

Advances in microscopes have led to advances in science and technical systems for nearly 400 years, and progress shows no sign of stopping.  

A new bench-top mass spectrometer has been released by Hiden Analytical, USA, which uses a fast digital detection system for minimised signal response times. The device features a measurement rate of up to 500 data points per second over a seven-decade dynamic range, with a compositional change at the sample point recorded in less than 150 milliseconds, as well as the Hiden triple-stage mass filter for optimum sensitivity and quantitative analysis software.

Meanwhile, Swiss firm X-Rite Inc has announced a range of new, handheld spectrophotometers to aid colour quality, formulation and monitoring programmes. The Ci6x family provides tighter control of colours for materials, in process parts and finished goods, along with an audit trail. The instruments are equipped with Bluetooth capability and UV illumination to support the addition of optical brightener agents, and can provide visuals on a large colour screen to ensure reliable measurement collection.

Leica Microsystems, Germany, has released a suite of software modules to enhance the performance of a range of microscopes. The Cleanliness Expert performs analysis and measurement of residual dirt, and measures the length, breadth and height of particles, while distinguishing between reflective and non-reflective particles. The firm has also launched accessories for its eyepiece-free digital microscope system, including options of an incident light base or a boom stand outfit, increasing ease of use.

In the field of temperature-controlled microscopy, the THMS600 stage from Linkam Scientific Instruments, UK, is enabling greater understanding of polymer materials where high heating/freezing rates are needed, with 0.1°C accuracy and stability. For instance, the stage allows for a controlled heating experiment for observing the crystal growth of semi-crystalline thermoplastic polymers, a process that previously had to be achieved by melting samples in an oven. THMS600 means scientists can heat samples at a few tenths of a degree per minute, in order to more closely examine the sample changes.

With developments such as these ongoing in the field, those reliant on microscopy can be confident of further breakthroughs and improvements in their own fields.  

Next month’s Spotlight is on quality.