A new technique for examining the microscopic structure of materials has opened the doorway to designing "smart" superconductors and electronics. The new technique, electron back scattered pattern (EBSP) analysis, will help engineers to design and construct materials on the microscopic scale that are self-regulating, they could act as superconductors but also deal with power surges from local generators by "switching" themselves off. Similar "smart" design could also be used on microchips to prevent vital parts of the circuit board from short circuiting, improving the quality of the chip and giving it a longer working lifetime.
EBSP analysis, developed in collaboration between Cambridge University and Oxford Instruments, involves looking at the electrons that are scattered from the edges of the "grains" in a material's structure when an electric current is applied. This technique is an improvement upon existing methods of looking at "grain boundaries" as the materials do not have to undergo extensive preparation techniques. Such detailed, easy-to-obtain information will help researchers to design materials with specific grain boundary structures, giving "smart" characteristics.
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