Materials analysis center hosts course

The Swagelok Center for Surface Analysis of Materials (SCSAM) hosted a daylong course on Monday, Oct. 23 in White Metallurgical Building.

The course focused on the microscopy and spectroscopy analysis methods available on campus through the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. While primarily offered to graduate students, postdoctoral individuals and faculty, all individuals on campus who had an interest in microscopy and spectroscopy were invited to sit-in on the presentations. It began at 9 a.m. and finished at 5 p.m., with breaks throughout.

In the morning session, Dr. Kevin Abbasi presented on X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy—also known as electron spectroscopy for chemical analysis—and secondary ion mass spectroscopy, Dr. Danqi Wang discussed auger electron spectroscopy and Dr. Jonathan Cowen presented about X-ray diffraction. During the afternoon session, Nan Avishai introduced scanning electron microscopy, Dr. Amir Avishai presented upon energy dispersive spectroscopy, electron backscatter diffraction and focused ion beam analysis, Wang displayed transmission electron microscopy and Richard Tomazin discussed atomic force microscopy and nanoindentation.  

Many of the presentations incorporated a motif of discovering the ideal conditions for analyzing an image. For example, with the scanning electron microscope, magnitude and resolution influence the ability for users to clearly view the sample, the angle of the electron beam impacts the shadow cast upon the sample image and the sample signal detector types influence the illumination varieties. Since all samples are unique, Avishai emphasized the necessity for the research conductor to experiment with the conditions of the beam in order to obtain the ideal image. Similarly, many of these machines have the ability to analyze biological materials, and meticulous preparation of biological samples was also stressed in order to obtain an image that can be effectively analyzed.  

Some of the available machinery have many functions related to viewing materials, such as the Focused Ion Beam (FIB) machine. The FIB apparatus can portray images with cross sections, prepare samples for transmission electron microscopy, present images in 3D, prototype FIB images and deposit platinum for specified FIB processing.

Ultimately, Avishai commented on the versatility of each method of analysis. He also reminded the audience that despite the individual emphasis on analysis processes during the presentations, effective and complete evaluations of chemicals and materials require a combination of most, if not all, of the methods discussed during the short course, as they examine different aspects of the structural and compositional nature of materials. With all of these surface and compositional analysis techniques, some of the research conducted on campus involved identifying and defining crystal structures, characterizing geological materials and illuminating the anatomical structures of fruit flies.