Missouri S&T gets a microscope that magnifies objects a million

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On January 31, 2008

Missouri University of Science and Technology has a new research toy — a
focused ion beam (FIB) scanning electron microscope that is capable of
shrinking images of objects a million times and then etching them on the head
of a pin.         

The piece of equipment, which cost more than $1 million dollars, was
purchased through Missouri S&T’s Center for Aerospace Manufacturing
Technologies with funds made available by the National Science Foundation and
the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory. Missouri S&T is the first
university in the state to have its own FIB

FIB technology is used in Silicon Valley to make computer chips, but there
are numerous applications for university researchers as well. For instance,
Missouri S&T researchers plan to use the FIB machine to see nano-scale
changes in metals that have been stressed and to make tiny images of ancient
bacteria that are trapped in salt

“One of the biggest advantages is that we’re used to looking at only the
outer surfaces of materials,” says Dr. F. Scott Miller, associate professor of
materials science and engineering at Missouri S&T. “We now have the ability
to look deeper and deeper into a sample. It’s like peeling the layers of an

In addition to seeing things at nearly the atomic level, the FIB machine
allows researchers to modify the samples being analyzed. The multi-purpose
machine has an electron microscope that magnifies things up to a million times
and a focused ion beam that can be used to bombard and remove atoms. The ion
beam is what makes it possible to make impressions on a silicon wafer, for

Miller recently illustrated the FIB machine’s capabilities by reproducing
Missouri S&T’s new logo near the eye of a sewing needle. Using the
machine’s focused ion beam, Miller was able to etch a microscopic replica of
the logo into the needle’s surface. (A video allowing you to zoom in on the
microscopic logo is available at http://visions.mst.edu/2007/12/nanojoe.html

Missouri S&T plans to hire a full-time employee to operate the FIB
microscope. Researchers across campus and throughout the region will be able to
utilize the technology.

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On January 31, 2008. Posted in Research