Image courtesy of FEIHillsboro, Ore., U.S. and Manchester, U.K./June 2, 2014FEI (NASDAQ: FEIC) and the University of Manchester announce their collaboration on the Metals Lab at the University of Manchester’s Electron Microscopy Centre in the School of Materials. The lab will focus on steels and non-ferrous alloys research in an effort to develop high-performance materials for use in automotive, aerospace, nuclear, oil & gas, and other industrial sectors where advanced metallic alloys play a critical role.  

Professor Phil Withers, director of the BP International Centre for Advanced Materials at the University of Manchester, states, “Modern alloys are critically dependent on the role of alloying elements. Whether these are relatively common elements, like chromium in steel to confer corrosion resistance, or rhenium and ruthenium in nickel–base super alloys for high-temperature strength, even small improvements can impact heavily on their economics – especially for the steel industry - where millions of tons of material quickly translate into millions of dollars of extra cost. The ability to confidently reduce, replace, or exploit these alloying elements without a reduction in performance can have huge economic impacts across a range of sectors. With new electron microscopes, software, and the ability to manage multiple, large datasets, we can now positively engage with these demands from industry.”

A multiscale, three-dimensional (3D) correlative imaging workflow is applied at the Metals Lab to understand the nature of life-limiting degradation processes over a wide range of spatial scales. MicroCT equipment is used to identify areas of interest (such as cracks or pits), which are then evaluated using the high-resolution Quanta™ 3D and Nova NanoLab™ DualBeam™ focused ion beam (FIB)/scanning electron microscopes (SEMs) and 3D slice and view reconstruction software from FEI.  The Titan™ G2 80-200 transmission electron microscope (TEM) with SuperEDX™ is used to provide atomic-scale imaging and compositional analysis, in both 2 and 3D. FEI`s Avizo® software is used to visualize, correlate and combine datasets recorded from this suite of tools. The Talos™ TEM is also installed in the lab for nanoscale materials characterization, while the high performance of the aberration-corrected Titan is used for more advanced research.

The multiscale workflow permits investigations of the root causes of behavior and failure at the atomic scale, while at the same time, ensuring that those small-scale observations accurately represent the structure and composition of the material at larger scales. This ability to characterize the same sample on different length scales is crucial to improve properties like strength, creep, fatigue and corrosion of metals, where these macroscopic properties are linked to microscopic effects down to the atomic scale.

“The need to characterize metals on the nanoscale is pushing the boundaries of current commercial technologies,” states Professor Grace Burke, director of the Materials Performance Centre at The University of Manchester. “This workflow from FEI is essential to our continued development and understanding of new materials, namely, the ability to characterize individual structures, particles and their constituent phases, in real time, at the highest sensitivity and spatial resolution.”

 Trisha Rice, FEI’s vice president and general manager for Materials Science, adds, “This partnership will enable us to develop and refine new multiscale techniques and approaches that will drive the next wave of advancements in metal research and development. the University of Manchester has a well-recognized history in microanalysis and quantification, and we are pleased to embark on this collaboration with them.”

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