After Café Series

A casual opportunity immediately following the Millennium Café to learn about the breadth of analytical capabilities within the Materials Characterization Laboratory (MCL).  These brief (30-minute) multi-technique and interdisciplinary talks will highlight applications (not theory) to provide useful insights to novice and experienced researchers working across various science and engineering challenges.

Materials characterization is often performed under standard laboratory conditions.  However, this can lead to an incomplete view of the structure, chemistry, and overall properties of a material system under their eventual “real-world operating conditions”.  To address this gap researchers may employ strategies to collect their data under “in situ” conditions where temperature, pressure, and chemical composition of atmosphere are controlled. The insight gained via “in situ” characterization are critical to developing further understanding for advanced materials, catalysts, polymers, etc. and represent one of the DOE BES critical research aims. During this talk, I will discuss our capabilities at MCL to perform these in situ experiments with a specific focus on XRD, TEM, XPS and molecular spectroscopy applied to a broad range of materials.

A multimodal/multiscale approach to the characterization of materials or devices can provide important information about defects, structure, or morphology at length scales down to the atomic level within the larger macroscopic framework of the system. In addition, 3D visualization provides the key third dimension to 2D projection images that are produced by most standard imaging techniques. Visualizing samples in three dimensions can be done nondestructively by imaging at many tilt angles using MicroCT or though similar tomography methods in a transmission electron microscope. Alternatively, it can be done destructively through slice and view methods using an ion beam in a FIB/SEM or by microtoming in the SEM. This talk will demonstrate the benefits of collecting these types of datasets using X-ray CT, SEM, and TEM and combining the different types of data to bridge the millimeter bulk to nanometer atomic length scales. This allows for precision targeting of a region of interest and detailed insight into the underlying structure of the material that influences its properties or response during testing or in real applications. 

This talk will introduce ImageJ (now called FIJI), an open-source image analysis software with a plugin that runs a machine learning algorithm (WEKA segmentation) and how this can be used to help with feature recognition and image segregation from any image-producing characterization technique (optical microscopy, SEM, TEM, AFM, etc.). I will provide examples where this software has been implemented to accelerate materials identification and improve statistical analysis of material concentration.

Whether during initial development of a device, in the scale up for manufacturing, or during an established manufacturing process, engineers often need to address thin film adhesion failures.  This talk will highlight some of the methods available within the Nanofab and MCL to characterize adhesion failures and thus help identify the necessary process modifications required to increase device quality and/or reproducibility.  We will use an example of a failure that occurred at a metal contact layer on a passivation oxide to walk through the testing decisions that lead to an understanding of the root cause. 

Biological materials are ~80 percent water and many materials are designed for use under aqueous and/or hydrated conditions. However, imaging /analyses of these systems are often performed after dehydration or freezing which can significantly alter the chemistry/structure from the native hydrated state. This talk will highlight several techniques available at Penn State that enable sample analysis in aqueous and/or controlled humidity environments with an emphasis on the additional information that can be obtained via these approaches. 

This talk will demonstrate some strategies for determining the structure and composition of organic thin films (less than 100 nm) with an emphasis on vibrational spectroscopy (FT-IR and Raman) and other select techniques such as AFM-IR and XPS. The pros, cons, and sampling considerations for each technique will be demonstrated using various examples from work performed in MCL and literature. The influence of film thickness, substrate type, and information needed on the decision of which analytical technique(s) to use will also be discussed.

If you have a film you probably need to know its thickness. Film thickness measurements are important to everything from polymers to epitaxial 2D materials, but choosing the optimal technique is often not straightforward.  We will discuss some advantages and complications of several methods available at Penn State.  Techniques to be highlighted include:  X-ray methods, SEM, TEM, optical methods and other destructive and non-destructive techniques. Are there really 101 ways? Come find out.

This will be an opportunity to learn about a variety of new capabilities, new expertise, and recommended best practices to maximize your usage of the MCL. Whether you’ve been using MCL for years, are looking to start using the lab soon, or are just curious about MCL resources this event is for you. All students, faculty, and staff are invited to attend. Excellent coffee will be provided.