Hamline News

Three photos of ESEM: in box, being installed, installed in Robbins Science.

Research Opportunities Abound With New Tool

On Monday, November 2, the Hamline University Physics Department took delivery of a state-of-the-art ZEISS EVO 15 environmental scanning electron microscope (ESEM).

Once the weeklong installation, calibration and training process is completed in a remodeled room in Robbins Science Center, Hamline students will have access to the most advanced environmental scanning electron microscope on a college campus in Minnesota, according to Lifeng Dong, professor and chair of the physics department.

Why is it important to students?
“The ESEM will significantly enhance the scientific performance of research and education at Hamline, especially the Renewable Energy and Environmental Research (REER) Laboratory,” said Dong.

The new ESEM can visualize substances at a nanoscale level. With the increasing use of nanoscale materials and bioengineering materials, and the current trends toward miniaturization in virtually all areas of science and technology, understanding materials at the nano-level is crucial for students interested in a scientific career.

“For example, examining the nanostructure of leaves could provide inspiration for new materials with certain properties,” said Dong. “And, specific to the REER Lab, we can work on optimizing materials for energy storage.”

In addition to the opportunity to conduct materials research, students will gain practical lab skills using an electron microscope, a complex scientific instrument.

How does it work?
The EVO 15 ESEM is equipped with an X-ray energy dispersive spectrometer for understanding the composition of materials and a scanning transmission electron microscopy detector which reveals internal structures at the smallest level.

Hamline’s EVO 15 ESEM scans a focused electron beam across the surface of material samples. The electrons interact with atoms in the sample to create images of the surface topography. The X-ray signals generated by the electron interaction with the sample show the elemental composition and distribution of various materials to understand their electrical, optical, magnetic, chemical and biological properties.

How did Hamline obtain the ESEM?
Obtaining the EVO 15 ESEM was a joint effort between Dong, an expert in the field of electron microscopy and microanalysis, and Professor Jerry Artz, who donated money himself and also contacted alumni to gather more than $230,000 needed for purchase and installation. An additional $200,000 will be sought to provide endowed funding for laboratory equipment and yearly maintenance.

“We’ve been working on getting the ESEM for over a year and are looking forward to using it with our students,” said Artz.

11/9/2020

Written by staff.

Photos of installed ESEM and installation courtesy of Professor Jerry Artz.