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Dr. Edgar Voelkl, Director of Product Marketing
Sample preparation has drastically improved over the years and samples today are better, less contaminated, thinner, and easier to prepare. Any downside to this? Oh yes. With higher kVs, the analytical signal and imaging contrast is weaker, and so the high-end STEM/TEM microscopes become more expensive: the conventional high-kV microscopes now strain to additionally cover the lower energies necessary for imaging and analyzing, e.g., Graphene-like, doped structures, CNTs, thin films, etc., making those microscopes even more expensive. Not a good direction in the current funding climate. And what about things like catalysts? They function because of their surface and morphology. And this is where SEM says hello.
Assume we have taken the best (immersion) lens for SEM, with a cold FEG that is a must at low kV, added EDX with a 0.7 sr detector, windowless, added STEM with BF and DF detectors, diffraction capabilities, and our own EELS for analyzing band structures and bonding types and for good measure thrown in energy-filtered BF STEM. Then realize that at ≤ 30 keV we can work with most samples that are 100 nm or thinner in thickness (it is STEM — not TEM).
What would you expect the outcome to be? Can I convince you that such a microscope will be fine for most samples 100 nm and thinner, and that surface and volume in transmission can be observed simultaneous even with atomic resolution? And at the same time has better signals from the EELS/EDX detectors?
Dr. Edgar Voelkl is the Director of Product Marketing at the Nanotechnology Systems Division of Hitachi High Technologies America, Inc. (HTA). He received his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Tuebingen in Germany on high-resolution electron holography. Prior to joining HTA in 2014, Dr. Voelkl worked at Oak Ridge National Laboratory for 10 years as R&D senior staff at their High Temperature Materials Laboratory. He also worked at various other companies, including his own startup providing business development consulting and software development.