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Investigating Atomic Layers
March 1, 2013   
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The properties of several of the most external atomic layers of materials can now be studied at the Mazovian Center for Surface Analysis in Warsaw using a number of modern techniques.

Just opened at the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences, the center provides a spectrum of surface analysis tools including a state-of-the-art scanning electron microscope and specialized spectroscopic equipment for surface studies in high and ultra-high vacuum conditions.

The Mazovian Center for Surface Analysis houses research instruments financed from different programs, including the European Union-funded Noblesse project. This equipment enables studies of material samples using over a dozen spectroscopic and microscopic techniques.

“Laboratories dealing with scanning techniques have long operated at our institute. Now we have upgraded their equipment, and the European funds allowed us to buy the last missing component, the electron microscope. All that was left to do was to merge the laboratories into one unit specializing in surface analysis techniques,” says Prof. Robert Hołyst, director of the Institute of Physical Chemistry.

The analysis of the surface properties of materials plays a substantial role in science and industry. Even tiny amounts of impurities—a few molecules per million—can “spill” out of the material and cover its surface. The layer resulting from such a segregation process significantly modifies the properties of the sample. The equipment now available at the Mazovian Center for Surface Analysis makes it possible to analyze the physico-chemical properties of the most external atomic layers of the sample. The results of the analyses are used, for instance, in materials engineering and electronics.

The most essential equipment at the center includes a PHI 5000 VersaProbe multi-chamber spectrometer, an ESCALAB-210 spectrometer, a NanoSEM 450 scanning electron microscope, a MICROLAB 350 scanning Auger microanalyzer, and an Autolab PGSTAT302N Electrochemical System for Corrosion Studies.

Prof. AleksanderJabłoński, head of the Mazovian Center for Surface Analysis, says, “The center now provides over a dozen surface science techniques for studying the surfaces of solids, including photoelectron spectroscopy, Auger spectroscopy, tunneling microscopy, and atomic force microscopy. This is quite a unique mix of methods used in a single ultra-high vacuum.”

Some of the measurements carried out at the center are for scientific and research institutions belonging to the NanoBiom consortium, which works on the application of quantum semiconductor nanostructures in biology and medicine. Around 40 percent of the research time is related to projects commissioned by partners including industry, according to Jabłoński.
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