Analysis via WEB using TEM responding to outsourcing needs
Recently, accompanied by the miniaturization of components of industrial products, material analysis at a finer scale has been in demand. A high-end TEM (transmission electron microscope) is an instrument that can satisfy requirements in visualization and analysis at a nano-level. However, for users, the high-end TEM is not only expensive but it also requires training of operators. Therefore, JEOL Ltd. began promoting contract analysis by utilizing a group of electron microscopes including high-end TEMs, for the needs of outsourcing. In addition, an analysis service with the user’s attendance on WEB via the Internet communication has been launched recently.
Nano-level analysis needed
With the current continued miniaturization of industrial products, nano-level structure and state of materials are the influencing factors for the components and more detailed observations and analyses are required. TEMs are the instruments to provide observation of samples. Thinly-sliced samples are transmitted by electron beams and the transmitted electron beams are used to observe a sample like a shadow picture. In particular, the high-end TEM with an aberration corrector, which has become very popular, enables an atomic level observation and analysis. Keiichiro Nayuki, who is in charge of contract analysis using TEM, says that, “I feel that the opportunity for nano-level analysis has increased also for the customer’s material”. In order to lead to the development of a new material, finding mechanisms at the nano-level have been desired. However, for users, it is not an easy task to purchase a high-end TEM. It is not only because the instrument itself is relatively expensive, but also because environmental preparation of its installation room and training of operators are required.
Increased needs of outsourcing
“With confidentiality and the speed of research being considered, I believe that it would be better for users to conduct the analysis by using their own instruments. But due to the cost of purchasing an instrument, maintenance after installation, and the cost of human resource training, I think the use of outsourcing has also been increased, such as the use of public facility and contract analysis service by private providers. “
JEOL Ltd. has offered contract analysis services. With the increased demands of outsourcing services, a group for contract analysis has been newly established and full-scale engagement has began. Because of the fact that this service is a contract analysis service provided by an electron microscope maker, many requests have come from users who are not familiar with the electron microscope. In addition, use to accumulate data before the purchase of an instrument and attachment is also seen, thus responding to various needs.
The advantage of contract analysis of JEOL is the capability to offer the service that is suitable for the user’s needs, from among the product groups focusing on the electron microscopes. Moreover, it responds to challengeable requests such as “environment observation” in a positive way. Not only to make nano-level analysis, but also to confirm the change of material in the situation close to the actual environment, the requests have been increased such as heating or cooling of a sample in the electron microscope or observing a sample in gas or liquid in recent years. “I am also moved by the world shown by the electron microscope, with our users”, says Nayuki.
TEM observation with user’s attendance using WEB
Moreover, earlier than any other company, we started “TEM observation with user’s attendance using WEB” using the Internet since 2016. Conventional observation with user’s attendance requires users to visit JEOL Ltd. However, with TEM observation with user’s attendance using WEB, when users send a sample to JEOL beforehand, they can observe or analyze the sample while being in their own office. At the same time, users can give instructions to the operator by the electron microscope, or can have discussions via WEB, thus, efficient analysis is possible as if the users make observations while being close to the electron microscope.
In addition, there is no limit in the number of attending users, enabling attendance of more than one person.
“With TEM observation with user’s attendance using WEB, sometimes even a discussion starts among the attending users while observing a sample using the WEB. Thus, I believe that it plays a role in sharing information for an urgent development need”.
The TEM observation using the WEB requires costs for the users, which are not inexpensive, although it assures use of a TEM for a designated time. “I always would like to come up with the results allowing the users to study further” says Nayuki.
For effective use of limited time, an advance consultation is important.
“For a technically difficult observation, I even visit the user for a preliminary meeting. It is needed to discuss the order and detail of the observations and sort out things for further problem-solving desired by the user. For a problem that does not seem easy to solve, if we could establish necessary techniques and help the users solve the problem, then I believe that our work is rewarding”.
Real front-line of material and product developments
Despite the costs, the number of repeated users of a TEM observation using WEB is not small.
“In recent days, the number of samples which are difficult to observe has increased. This demonstrates that we are facing well to the needs of observation by the users who are at the front-line of material and product developments I think.” As a vision years from now, Nayuki is thinking of contributing to the automation of the electron microscope even a little.
“Many users seek the target data without complex operation once a sample is inserted to the instrument. It would be better if we could give feedback of the user’s needs of automation, which we face while conducting contract analysis, to the development team.”
As a dream from now, “I would like more users to use electron microscopes via contract analysis using WEB” says Nayuki.
“Some customers feel it is difficult to use electron microscopes. Also, in other cases, utilization of the microscope is not proper. Although the customer has the instrument, they cannot obtain the desired data. I would like to obtain the data that a customer desires on behalf of them first, and then let the customers into the electron microscope world gradually. That’s what I want to do.”
Nayuki is thinking about finding more possibilities of electron microscopes with the users.