Scanning Probe Microscopes can now be used to discover the detailed structure and properties of a material thanks to new techniques developed by the University of Loughborough and Topometrix Corporation. By using specially constructed probes, scientists can examine any material's surface, look for contaminants and identify the component parts of the material. This will give a valuable insight into the structure of new materials and will also help maintain quality control in the production of, for example, paracetamol tablets.
The thermal properties of a substance, such as the temperature at which it melts, can be uncovered by using a probe that acts as a heat source for melting and a thermal sensor to measure temperature simultaneously. The probe only melts a tiny amount of material allowing samples to be sent for bulk testing as well. Differences in the conductivity and diffusivity, also detectable by the probe, can be used to identify low concentration species, such as impurities, on the surface that cannot be detected using bulk thermal methods.
The other innovative probe measures the topography, local stiffness and adhesion at points on the surface of the material to build up a picture of how the material behaves. This process can be used to identify components in polymers, coatings and composites and can be used in liquids to characterise biocompatible materials and cell structures.
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Notes for Editors
1. Materials World is the journal of the Institute of Materials, the
professional body of more than 18,000 materials scientists and engineers
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