A picture from a scanning electron microscope showing Yttrium barium copper oxide (YBCO) crystals. This compound is famous for displaying high-temperature superconductivity.

Electron microscopy

Our two scanning electron microscopes can be used to investigate the structure and composition of materials, supporting research and commercial activities.

The science

Our Facility has two scanning electron microscopes, both of which have imaging and elemental analysis capabilities.

The first, an FEI Quanta 450 SEM, can operate in high, low, and environmental vacuum modes. It is robust and used for basic imaging and elemental analysis, including elemental maps.

The second, a high resolution FEI Nova NanoSEM 450, has more advanced imaging and analytical features that enable it to perform at nanoscale. The addition of an electron backscatter diffractometer (EBSD) enables crystal orientation mapping, while a scanning transmission electron microscope detector (STEM) enables observation of samples that typically require access to a transmission electron microscope.

Additional equipment to assist in sample preparation include metal coaters, a polisher, and a precision ion polishing system.

Microscopy facilitates everything from PhD research and publications to solving industry problems.
Head and shoulders portrait of Sarah Spencer

Sarah Spencer

Impact and potential

The electron microscopes are an essential tool for advancing Paihau—Robinson Research Institute’s fundamental research into high-temperature superconductors and green metallurgy.

Our Facility is also used by researchers across the University campus. It is available to government and private organisations for their research and development, and also as a quick diagnostic tool to identify contaminants or causes of industrial processing failures.

Use of the SEMs enables advancement of industrial research by optimising a developmental process or end product. As a diagnostic tool, it helps reduce the risk of potential processing issues going unnoticed, and forms part of the organisations’ mitigation strategies to pre-empt safety issues.

The Facility can either process samples and report back, or provide training so that visitors can do the work themselves.

The people

Sarah Spencer has more than 15 years’ experience in electron microscopy and runs the scanning electron microscope facility.

Robinson Research Institute