From the fan blades that power jet engines to the alloys used in medical implants, the University of Manchester is engaged in a wide range of research designed to improve the performance of metals and alloys. And to advance its research, the university recently became our first customer in Europe to implement a Thermo Scientific Helios 5 Laser PFIB, our new focused ion beam scanning electron microscope (FIB-SEM) that enables fast millimeter-scale sub-surface and 3D characterization with nanometer resolution.
Working with the Henry Royce Institute for advanced materials research and innovation and using the Helios 5 Laser PFIB, researchers at the University of Manchester are getting faster access to the high-precision data they need to design the next generation of metals and alloys. “The Helios 5 Laser PFIB is unique in its ability to excise millimeter-sized regions of interest below the surface,” says Dr. Tim Burnett, from the University of Manchester. “It can also perform large-volume 3D imaging far faster than was previously possible. This combination is helping us to characterize materials more rapidly and accurately as we investigate failures and understand next generation alloys for industry use.”
Part of the fifth generation of the industry-leading Helios family, the Helios 5 Laser PFIB features advanced automation capabilities and innovative ease of use improvements, helping to dramatically accelerate the pace of research for both academic and industry users. The instrument combines the best-in-class Thermo Scientific Elstar UC+ SEM Column for extreme-high-resolution imaging and advanced analytical capabilities, with our latest Xe+ plasma FIB column delivering highest performance at all operating conditions.
It also includes a femtosecond laser, which allows for in-situ ablation at unprecedented material removal rates. The laser makes it possible to cut metals and other materials thousands of times faster than a typical Gallium FIB (Ga-FIB). Ultra-short duration of femto-second laser pulses introduces nearly no artifacts and delivers much higher site-specific accuracy compared to traditional techniques. In most cases, femto-second laser milled surfaces are clean enough for direct SEM imaging and the quality is often sufficient for surface sensitive EBSD mapping technique. When it’s necessary to even further improve the surface quality, a short PFIB polish procedure can be used to reveal ultra-fine features.
The femtosecond laser is fully integrated in the chamber. All three beams—SEM, FIB, and laser—have a single coincident point, providing fast switching between them and enabling accurate and repeatable cut placement. Such design allows fully automated serial section tomography to acquire 3D datasets. It also offers easy and fast characterization of air-sensitive samples (e.g. batteries) with fs-laser processing and high-resolution SEM imaging in the same vacuum chamber, without the need for sample transfer.
Using the Helios 5 Laser PFIB, researchers can analyze once inaccessible sample regions in a matter of minutes, enabling them to quickly characterize the microstructure and pinpoint the root cause of failures to further improve the materials properties. What’s more, they can set up large-volume analyses to be automatically completed overnight, freeing up the instrument time for other tasks, such as advanced sample preparation or in-situ experimentation.
In addition to metals, the new Laser PFIB enables academic and industrial users to quickly characterize a variety of materials including batteries, glass, ceramics, paint coatings, polymers, biomaterials, etc. It can also be used for fast, high-quality processing of challenging samples such as non-conductive, air-sensitive, and beam-sensitive materials.
The Helios 5 Laser PFIB can be equipped with energy-dispersive (EDS) and electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) detectors to perform 3D elemental and grain orientation analyses at the millimeter scale. Combined with other techniques such as micro-computed topography (microCT) or transmission electron microscopy (TEM), it extends the range of multi-scale correlative workflows for complete characterization of complex materials.
To learn more about the Helios 5 Laser PFIB and our other Helios instruments, please visit our webpage.
Mikhail Dutka is a product marketing manager at Thermo Fisher Scientific.
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