Surface Science Lab Invest in State-of-the-Art Instruments

The Surface Science Group in the School of Engineering & Applied Science at Aston University (under the guidance of Professor John Sullivan) has recently purchased two new state-of-the art surface analytical instruments for probing the outer layers of the surfaces of solids.

Part of Aston’s allocation from the Science Research Investment Fund (SRIF) provided around £700,000 funding for the instruments, which have given Aston the most modern surface analysis instruments available in the world today.

The instruments acquired by the Surface Science Group are a Thermo Fisher ESCALAB 250 imaging X-ray Photoelectron Spectrometer (XPS) and a Thermo Fisher MICROLAB 350 imaging Auger Electron Spectrometer (AES).

Prof Sullivan explained: ‘Surface analysis is concerned with the study and measurement of the physical, chemical and compositional properties of the first one to ten atomic layers. It is the surface which forms the boundary between the environment and/or other materials in contact with that solid. Thus the composition and structure of these outermost layers have a profound effect on the properties and performance of materials and systems in an increasingly wide range of technological and nano-technological applications.

‘Instruments such as these have proved invaluable in the examination, characterisation and understanding of the surface properties of metals, glasses, ceramics, polymers and biological materials and in the study of processes such as adhesion, corrosion, oxidation, biological interactions and drug delivery systems.’

The ESCALAB uses a monochromatic X-ray beam to probe the surfaces and gives information and images of the chemical state of atoms in that surface. The MICROLAB uses a very finely focused electron beam to probe the surface.

The instruments will be used by the Surface Science Group in its present research on nano materials and systems, but should also have much wider use for research within the University.

‘We hope that other research groups at Aston will take advantage of the opportunity to use the best surface analytical instrumentation in the UK today. We would also like to help industry with current problems in the development of new products and processes and also attract new industrially funded research programmes,’ explained Prof Sullivan

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