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NUANCE: Nanoscale Characterization Experimental Center

Focused Ion Beam at EPIC

The EPIC-FIB facility houses two focused ion beam / scanning electron microscopes (FIB-SEM), each with its own specialized set of capabilities. These include conventional sample preparation for TEM and atom probe tomography (APT). FIB-SEM tomography, ion beam lithography, nanomanipulation, probing, in situ probing, EDS, EBSD, and a range of imaging modalities. In addition, both systems are equipped with gas injection systems for deposition (Pt, C, etc).

In addition to our state-of-the-art equipment, experienced staff members are on-hand to train and assist users with FIB-SEM work and sample preparation techniques.

EPIC - FIB Highlight

The Electron Probe Instrumentation Center (EPIC) will receive a novel well-equipped state-of-the-art focused ion beam – scanning electron microscope (FIB-SEM) in 2024! This instrumentation can combine ultra-high resolution field emission SEM and FIB material etch and deposition for nanoscale machining, prototyping, 2D and 3D characterization of a wide range of materials ranging from hard to soft matter.

Thermo Scientific Helios Hydra plasma-FIB (PFIB)

This uniquely configured instrumentation, which acquisition has been graciously supported by the Office for Research at NU, is designed to deliver four different ions as the primary beam, including xenon, nitrogen, oxygen and argon, each with their own unique applications. Switching between these primary sources can be readily done within 10 minutes, allowing for vastly improved flexibility to expand cases of FIB usage in exploring ion-sample interactions.

For example, the Xe+ source with high ion currents allows for larger volume material removal and thus considerably higher throughput, and can produce less surface damage compared to conventional FIB-SEM with a Ga+ source. Further, oxygen PFIB ion milling has been shown to reduce artifacts in biological tissues, while a plasma with argon ions could be utilized to ensure high quality polishing of surfaces, especially at lower accelerating voltages.

2fib-highlight1-2023.jpgThe instrument will be additionally equipped with state-of-the-art energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS) and electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) detectors to allow for analytical 2D and 3D materials characterization, while having the option to simultaneously acquire electron beam images using a various range of available detectors.

The Hydra PFIB system integrated with cryo-technologies can further provide a complete solution for cellular structure biology, enabling efficient TEM lamella preparation and high-resolution imaging with the versatility for handling a wide range of cryogenic samples.

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Helios Hydra PFIB images of plunge-frozen, unstained unicellular algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Left: 2D cross section. Right: 3D volume was segmented and visualized using Amira Software (20 nm slices).

 Stay tuned for more information!