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Northwestern adds to its Imago microscope

The Imago LEAP Microscope Source: Imago
Madison, Wis. - Imago Scientific Instruments, a Madison-based provider of atom probe tomographic microscopes and nanotechnology solutions, has added another piece, the Laser Pulse module, to its LEAP 3000X microscope at Northwestern University.

The LEAP (local electrode atom probe) system is used by the Northwestern University Center for Atom-Probe Tomography, which focuses on the structure and capabilities of materials at the atomic level.

David Seidman, a professor of materials science and engineering at Northwestern, said the laser probe should improve the team's research on semiconductors, and aid several projects already in development. The projects include developing high-temperature aluminum-based alloys for the Department of Energy and blast-resistant steels for the United States Navy, as well as studying problems with nickel-based super alloys for the National Science Foundation.

"What it does is it allows us to look at a much broader range of materials, and improves our general capabilities," Seidman said. "For the metals, you have fewer ions in high-charge states … which improves the mass resolution."

An NU first
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Through NUCAPT, Northwestern became the first university in the United States to install a LEAP microscope, which became operational in January of 2005. In February of this year, researchers announced they had used the microscope to obtain and map out three-dimensional images of gold atoms in nanowires.

The Laser Pulse module allows the LEAP microscope to move past normal electric scanning and increases its capacity to analyze metallic, semi-conducting, and oxide materials with higher electrical resistance. Additionally, it allows the microscope to begin studying organic materials such as ceramics.

Seidman said the module was paid for entirely under the Defense Universities Research Initiatives Project. According to Imago, the module has a list price of $650,000, while the LEAP microscope itself has a list price between $1.8 and $2.3 million.

Timothy Stultz, chief executive officer of Imago, said the upgraded LEAP system at Northwestern is the first commercially available laser probe in the world. Northwestern offers a contract measurement service with industrial and academic researchers to use the technology, and Seideman's group has collected more atom probes than any other research group in the world.

In addition to its use at Northwestern, Imago has also provided LEAP microscopes to mass storage vendor Seagate Technology and the Nanostructural Analysis Network Organization, an Australian facility for nanotechnology research. The LEAP 3000 Metrology system also has been installed at the Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry (CRIEPI) in Tokyo.

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