This article shows how Penn State University used the LatticeAx to cleanly downsize a standard glass microscope slide and eliminate more than a day of additional work when the exclusively prepared slide was too tall to fit in their AFM.
As a shared-use facility, the Materials Research Institute (MRI) at Penn State University provides materials imaging and analytical services for University research and industry. Dr. Trevor Clark, team leader of electron microscopy at the Institute’s Materials Characterization Lab, was finishing an analytical service project for a local company that needed characterization data on a newly developed set of fibers for submission to a regulatory agency.
Clark’s team had just completed compiling structure, size¸ and other data using the scanning electron microscope (SEM time, ~4 hours) when the customer received a request from the regulatory agency for extra characterization of the fiber’s morphology – but this time using the Atomic Force Microscope (AFM).
The team used the SEM for an extra 3 hours to establish which fibers were the most suited for AFM, and then started the process of preparation of the chosen samples for AFM characterization. Substantial time (~4 hours) went into preparation, with the individual fibers being placed on and well-adhered to a glass slide through a strong glue and double-sided tape, as depicted in Figure 1. The fiber tips were exposed on each side and each fiber could be separated easily for individual characterization. The slide with the fibers was now ready to be mounted in the AFM holder. However, with the height required to accommodate the fibers, the glass slide was too tall to fit in the holder.
Figure 1. A diagram of the slide showing how the samples were mounted. The slide needed to be downsized to fit the AFM holder, without damaging the fibers that were already carefully selected and mounted.
Due to this height constraint, the team considered their options. Reducing the size of this carefully prepared slide was thought to be impossible, as a conventional scribing and cleaving process damages the edge with surface contaminating particles and glass shard. It appeared that the only available option would be to redo the whole process of sample process, but this would require a lot of time. The specific fibers that were most suitable for the AFM had already been recognized using SEM; repeating this and all of the steps would obviously be a setback.
The microline indentation method of the LatticeAx allowed us to reduce the glass slide’s size to the exact height we needed, in just seconds and without generating dust particles on our sample. This time savings and cleanly cleaved surface were critical to our project.
Dr. Trevor Clark, Microscopy Team Leader
LatticeAx Cleaving Machine
Clark had come to know that a LatticeAx cleaving machine was setup at the University in the cleanroom of the Nanofabrication Lab. He believed that if it was acceptable for the cleanroom, it could possibly be used to downsize the glass slide cleanly and without producing particles, thus enabling the characterization of the fibers to move forward more rapidly than if they had to redo the entire sample preparation process.
The chance proved successful, saving the team days of time to make and re-characterize one more set of fiber samples. The glass slide with the prepared fibers was placed on the LatticeAx 420 cleaving system and a shallow, controlled, microline indent was made to the glass slide at the particular point where the cleave was required to downsize the slide to the preferred dimension. A solution to their problem was found quickly — in seconds. The samples that were carefully prepared remained intact on the slide, and the slide could fit into the holder for the AFM characterization.
Figure 2. Glass slides cleaved using the LatticeAx. The scribeless cleave process of the LatticeAx eliminates generation of dust particles, making it ideal for downsizing the glass slide that already contained unique, proprietary fibers.
Advantages of LatticeAx
Most importantly, the scribeless cleave process of the LatticeAx was completely free of dust. When Clark initially considered the idea of using handheld tools to scribe the glass side, his biggest concern was that scribing would introduce unwanted dust particles to the delicate fiber samples already on the slide.
Clark was impressed by the speed and extreme cleanliness of the LatticeAx, and also the ease with which the preferred area could be cleaved. The Electron Microscopy Lab is a core, shared facility that handles a wide range of samples, some with complex preparation needs. So a machine like the LatticeAx, which can be easily learned and used, and can provide the desired results repeatedly, is a real asset to a facility with several users of different experience levels.
Clark also sees the LatticeAx as being an important instrument for some Focused Ion Beam (FIB) users as it can lower the amount of FIB supplies and time needed to prepare target areas for imaging and analysis. He is keen to further explore the applications where the LatticeAx can help his users reduce the amount of time they need to prepare samples, while enabling them to begin their characterization process with cleaved samples of the highest quality.
This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by LatticeGear.
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