Advanced analysis and material characterisation

Chemical analysis and material characterisation play important parts in R&D within most areas of industry. Modern product design and the development of new materials demand constantly improved methods for material characterisation and chemical analysis to be applied in parallel with the manufacturing processes.

The strong trend towards miniaturisation, as well as recent developments in nanotechnology, put high demands on the ability to analyse very small amounts of sample material, and with high spatial resolution. In the environmental field, there is a need for measuring low concentrations, often in very small or complex samples (e. g. in individual cells). Also, the range of substances believed to be hazardous to health or environment is expanding continually. Here, development trends focus on new methods of sample preparation and analysis for various applications, mainly using mass spectrometry methods (ICP-MS, GC-MS, LC-MS-MS, TOF-SIMS, and MALDI). Examples of application areas are the study of the environment, foodstuffs, microelectronics, and functionalised surfaces. The contribution by Materials Technology and Chemistry to the Nanometrology project falls within this area.

Examples of ongoing projects:
  • EUROCHAMP Integration of European Simulation Chambers for Investigating Atmospheric Processes. A research programme financed within the 6th EU Framework Programme, in the section “Support for research infrastructures – Integrated Infrastructure Initiative”. The backbone of the programme is 12 partners (European research groups), forming a network of “environmental chambers” designed for the scientific study of atmospheric chemical processes. The various reaction chambers may be used by other European researchers interested in studying atmospheric processes.
  • Material characterisation at the nanometer level. The development of analytical methods for the characterisation of microstructure and chemical composition of materials, using mainly high-resolution electron microscopy and imaging mass spectrometry (TOF-SIMS). The systems studied typically have dimensions in the 1-100 nm range, i. e. absorbent layers, thin coatings, or micro- and nanofabricated materials.
  • Investigations into the chemistry of mercury in nature, using an isotope tracer. The methylation and transport of mercury in soil are being studied in collaboration with IVL (the Swedish Environmental Research Institute). The method is based on adding the 198Hg isotope to soil, Samples are taken at certain time intervals and reprocessed by IVL. Methodology has been developed to determine the isotope ratio 202Hg/198Hg with low uncertainty of measurement (0.1-1%) at extremely small amounts of mercury (10-50 pg Hg).

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