• Canadian Centre for Electron Microscopy
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INDUSTRY

Industry Collaborations

The CCEM provides imaging and analysis services to a wide range of Canadian industries. We have long-standing, productive relationships with companies in the areas of nuclear materials, semi-conductor technology, automotive materials and many others.

Our experienced staff are happy to work with industry members on their materials questions. We can advise on the best techniques to obtain the data required to solve problems of materials performance, optimize materials production methods or design new materials.

The development of new energy conversion and storage devices that are less environmentally damaging requires new materials with precisely controlled compositions and properties. Electron microscopy provides unique imaging and analysis data for the design and optimization of these new materials and the processing methods developed to produce them. Only with electron microscopy can the composition and structure of materials at the atomic level be visualized and analysed, giving feedback allowing design of materials at unprecedented scales. Also, electron microscopy allows in-situ imaging and analysis during thermal, fluid flow and electrochemical processes, so elements of device performance can be studied in action.

Featured Project – Structural and electronic properties of  doped Mg2Si thermoelectric materials

Doped Mg2Si is a candidate thermoelectric material to replace toxic lead- and tellurium-containing materials; however, the low solubility of typical dopants may prevent adequate n-type doping for useful efficiencies. STEM EELS investigations of Sb- and Bi-doped Mg2Si revealed that these elements do replace Si in the crystal lattice, but that Mg3Sb2 and Mg3Bi2 form at the grain boundaries and hold excess Sb and Bi. The incomplete substitution for Si leads to lower carrier concentrations, but the thermal conductivity is also reduced, giving high enough thermoelectric efficiencies to justify further development of doped Mg2Si.

STEM–HAADF images of doped Mg2Si, with simulation results showing the occupation of interstitial sites marked by red lines, and heavy atom segregation on Si sites marked by blue lines.

Local structure and thermoelectric properties of Mg2Si0.977-xGexBi0.023 (0.1 ≤ x ≤ 0.4), Nader Farahi, Sagar Prabhudev, Gianluigi A. Botton, Jianbao Zhao, John S. Tse, Zhenxian Liu, James R. Salvador, Holger Kleinke, Journal of Alloys and Compounds 644 (2015) 249–255

The pursuit of fuel efficiency drives a continuous search for new light-weight, high-performance materials for automotive applications. The CCEM assists by pursuing detailed investigations of candidate materials and providing chemical and microstructural data to aid in process development. We have experience in investigating many automotive materials, including microstructures of novel steel compositions, atomic-level details of cracks and defects and the structure and composition of paints and pigments.

Featured Project – Investigation of solute segregation to austenite-ferrite transformation boundary during decarburizing

Solute segregation during the transformation from austenite to ferrite in advanced high-strength steels used for structural automotive components can have a significant impact on the progress of the transformation, thus affecting the final microstructure of the steel after decarburizing or denitriding. To obtain the ideal fraction of ferrite in the final steel the process parameters must be controlled for each steel composition. Atom probe tomography can measure the segregation of solute elements very precisely in specimens extracted at various stages in the process; the data is used to build accurate transformation models to predict the required process parameters for each steel composition.

Analysis by atom probe tomography reveals the austenite-ferrite interface, and the distribution of alloying elements in the material. Segregation can be visualized in 3D, and mapped over planar or complex interfaces to produce composition profiles.

Solute Segregation During Ferrite Growth: Solute/Interphase and Substitutional/Interstitial Interactions, H.P. Van Landeghem, B. Langelier, D. Panahi, G.R. Purdy, C.R. Hutchinson, G.A. Botton, H.S. Zurob, JOM 68 (2016) 1329–1334

Electron microscopy is the leading technique for microstructural investigations at essentially all length scales of interest, from grain structure and texture analysis to atomic resolution imaging of defects and segregation. At CCEM we have the range of equipment to study materials across the whole length-scale range, to provide both structural and analytical (chemical) information, from any area of interest. The broad and deep experience of our staff give us the expertise to successfully analyse a wide range of materials.

Featured Project – Degradation of Al-Mg surfaces during hot rolling

The surface quality of hot-rolled Al alloys is strongly influenced by oxide-rich microstructures that form during the hot-rolling process. These microstructures affect the interaction at the work piece-work roll interface, and can lead to surface flaws, cracking and material transfer to the work rolls. It is important that the effect of relevant factors in the development of these microstructures – alloying element migration, lubricant composition and hot rolling conditions such as temperature and atmosphere – is understood, so that their detrimental effects can be minimised. Imaging with electron microscopy can capture the early stages of development of these microstructures, and chemical analysis can give insight into the precise phases and structures that develop.

SEM images of the surface of Al–Mg alloy after one hot rolling pass, showing blisters and magnesium rich piles.

The formation of micro-blisters on Al–Mg alloy surfaces during hot rolling, O.A. Gali, M. Shafiei, J.A. Hunter, Q. Zhao, A.R. Riahi, Tribology International 87 (2015) 65–71

The variety of proposed applications for biomedical materials is rapidly increasing. Safety – biocompatibility – is always of paramount importance. To ensure compatibility, the structure and composition of the introduced material must be known and strictly controlled. Also, the detailed characteristics and reactions of the biological materials with which the new material will interact must be well understood. Electron microscopy can provide unique 2D and 3D visualizations of biomaterials, both natural and manufactured, at very high resolution. Accompanying chemical analysis gives detailed data on the composition and purity of candidate materials, allowing confident assessment of their compatibility.

Featured Project – Assessing the design of multi-functional heat-generating therapeutic nanoparticles

Nanoparticles that can be stimulated, by an external source, to produce heat at a specific location inside the body have potential for use in targeted thermo-therapy. A new design has been proposed to combine plasmonic gold particles and magnetic iron oxide particles into a single multi-functional core-shell structure. STEM imaging and analysis can not only provide high resolution images and elemental maps of these nanoparticles, confirming their core-shell structure, but electron energy loss spectroscopy can also probe and map the required plasmonic behaviour of the nanoparticle. In this way it was determined that the plasmonic behaviour of the gold shell is tunable.

Surface plasmon resonance of a single nanohybrid nanoparticle. High-angle annular dark field image and electron energy loss spectroscopy elemental maps of a single nanohybrid particle confirm the presence of an iron oxide core covered with a discontinuous Au shell. A smoothed surface plasmon resonance map and STEM-EELS signals corresponding to four different beam positions around the nanohybrid are also shown.

Can magneto-plasmonic nanohybrids efficiently combine photothermia with magnetic hyperthermia? Ana Espinosa, Mathieu Bugnet, Guillaume Radtke, Sophie Neveu, Gianluigi A. Botton, Claire Wilhelm, Ali Abou-Hassan, Nanoscale 7 (2015) 18872

The relevant features of interest in the microelectronics industry get smaller every year. Electron microscopy is one of the few techniques capable of imaging the performance controlling components in modern devices. At the CCEM we can image devices, both complete and in development, from the scale of a whole chip to the scale of individual atoms. This makes possible detailed investigations of the structure and composition of components as well as investigations of the performance of deposition and other micro-manufacturing techniques.

Feature Project – Device investigation for ON Semiconductor

The properties and performance of semiconductor-based devices are strongly influenced by the composition, purity and separation of the component parts and layers. High resolution imaging and elemental mapping are essential for obtaining complete understanding of device performance and quality. The sharpness of interfaces and the specific compositions of different components can be determined. If these characteristics are tracked as the device is cycled, important aspects of their influence on device performance are revealed.

Map showing locations of different elements in a semiconductor-based device for improving energy efficiency. Elements identified and mapped using STEM-EELS.

Materials in nuclear applications undergo unique stresses and degredation mechanisms, and their reliability is uniquely important. Electron microscopy can provide relevant structural and analytical information from phase and grain structure identification to grain boundary segregation and precipitate and oxide analysis. CCEM has the instruments required to analyze precisely selected areas at very high resolution and the experience of our staff in nuclear materials research provide us with the expertise required to successfully investigate a wide range of physical and chemical degradation processes.

Featured Project – Investigating reduced ductility of Inconel after irradiation

Inconel spacers have reduced ductility and load carrying capacity after irradiation, possibly due to helium bubbles that build up along grain boundaries. It has been suggested that the bubbles contribute to intergranular cracking. TEM imaging shows the grain boundaries and, using diffraction, the orientation relationship between grains can be determined. Imaging also reveals helium bubbles in the matrix and at grain boundaries and careful manipulation of the imaging conditions by experienced CCEM staff allows measurement of their size. Intergranular fracture surfaces have been imaged, revealing features indicating that the decrease in strength of the grain boundaries is linked to the presence of the helium bubbles.

TEM micrograph showing bubble alignment on grain boundaries and matrix–precipitate interface after irradiation.

Intergranular fracture in irradiated Inconel X-750 containing very high concentrations of helium and hydrogen, Colin D. Judge, Nicolas Gauquelin, Lori Walters, Mike Wright, James I. Cole, James Madden, Gianluigi A. Botton, Malcolm Griffiths, Journal of Nuclear Materials 457 (2015) 165–172
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