Enterprise Europe Network

High performance chemical analysis and imaging platform: surface chemistry and materials physics as a service

Country of origin:
External Id: 
Last update
Expiration date


Partner keyword: 
Properties of Materials, Corrosion/Degradation
Pharmaceutical Products / Drugs
Forensic science
Pharmaceuticals/fine chemicals
Coatings and adhesives manufactures
Speciality/performance materials: producers and fabricators


A platform at a Swiss university provides surface chemistry and materials physics services for industrial R&D. The core technologies are state-of–the-art systems for time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry and x-ray photoemission spectroscopy, complemented by more standard techniques such as micro-Raman and electron microscopy. Research scientists offer expertise in experiment design, data acquisition and analysis. Collaborations offered under research or technical cooperation agreements.



This platform at a Swiss university provides measurements, data analysis and scientific expertise in the field of surface chemistry and materials physics. Techniques directly probe microscopic properties such as surface termination, and elemental and molecular composition, as well as bulk chemistry and bonding. These properties underpin surface functionalities such as adhesion, catalysis and bio-compatibility as well as bulk properties such as electrical conductivity and hardness. The need to understand them often arises in the development of new materials (including nanoparticles and thin films) and functional surface coatings or treatment processes.

The platform is part of an active research university and has long-standing experience collaborating with companies. It has direct access to the extensive material characterisation know-how and the wealth of techniques that exist within the university. This enables a flexible response to complex problems; projects can go beyond the platform’s core technologies to encompass other techniques as required. Partners therefore have access to a service with the depth and scope usually reserved for academic research groups, provided by a platform that works with the confidentiality required in an industrial R&D setting.

The platform’s core technologies are time of flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (TOF-SIMS) with parallel mass spectrometry MS/MS, and x-ray photoemission spectroscopy (XPS). These techniques probe the chemical and molecular composition of materials. They are both highly surface sensitive, probing the top few nanometres of the sample surface. Both systems can also access bulk composition, and even create 3D images, using sputter depth profiling. Applications of these techniques can be found in sectors as diverse as coating science, photovoltaics, energy storage, medtech, foodtech, or forensics.

TOF-SIMS and XPS measure complementary information. Tandem MS measurements allow enhanced molecular specificity while the extreme sensitivity of TOF-SIMS (down to 0.1ppm for elements) allows trace element analysis. High spatial resolution of around 100nm, permits imaging of elemental and molecular distribution over length-scales relevant for intracellular investigations, and micron-scale defect analysis. Whereas XPS provides information about atomic valence, important when investigating transition metal oxidation states, and quantification without the need for standards.

Both systems boast versatile sample environments, including in-situ heating and cooling, and sputter cleaning. In particular argon cluster sputtering is well suited for depth profiling and 3D imaging of polymer systems such as drug delivery devices and biological samples such as single cells. Charge compensation systems allow the measurement of insulating as well as conductive samples. Furthermore, these two systems are equipped to receive samples from gloves boxes, as well as to permit in-vacuum sample transfer between them. This is invaluable when working with air-sensitive samples.

Partners with non-standard surface chemistry characterisation needs are sought for technical cooperation agreements. The platform provides a service not otherwise available from private service labs, or isolated university research groups. The partner will provide samples and the platform will design experiments, perform analysis and deliver comprehensive reports.

Partners for research cooperation agreements are sought for collaboration on research projects with profound and evolving surface chemical analysis and material characterisation needs. The platforms scientists will collaborate with the partner’s own researchers to share their respective knowledge of the analysis techniques and field of research. Both parties will be involved in designing experiments and data interpretation. The partner scientists will be invited onsite to learn about experimental details to further encourage knowledge transfe

Advantages & innovations

Cooperation plus value: 
This platform provides an integrated and research-style project structure supported by dedicated scientists that goes beyond what is offered by private service labs. Service labs provide standard material characterisation, often using a single isolated technique, operated with a point-and-shoot procedure. Analysis and reports that may be cursory or even automatically generated. In contrast, this platform offers in-depth analysis and reporting that considers the context of the project and which is personalized to the partner’s needs. This platform is one of the only installations in Europe to comprise both a TOF-SIMS with parallel MS/MS and a XPS microprobe. It can therefore be a powerful asset in projects requiring valence identification, molecular specificity, quantification and micron-scale compositional imaging in parallel. The ability to transfer samples between the systems in-vacuum is another particular advantage of this platform. Further advantages arise from the nature of the platform which is embedded in an active research institute. Partners have the possibility to access the know-how of trained and active researchers as well as a complementary range of characterisation techniques like scanning electron microscopy (SEM) with x-ray fluorescence probes, optical spectroscopy (Micro-Raman, FTIR (Fourier Transform InfraRed), ellipsometry) or local probes such as atomic force microscopy (AFM), scanning tunnelling microscopy (STM) or near field optical microscopy (SNOM).

Stage of development

Cooperation stage dev stage: 
Already on the market

Partner sought

Cooperation area: 
Any academic research group or industry quality control/research and development department with a problem that requires non-standard investigation of material or surface chemistry. The tasks to be performed by the partner sought: The platform seeks partners that have ongoing needs for an active partner in materials and surface characterisation for technical cooperation agreements. The partner is expected to combine knowledge of their product with the platforms scientific know-how to design tests and analysis to help develop their product. The platform seeks partners that require significant scientific support for experiment design combined with materials and surface characterisation measurements for research cooperation agreements. The partner is expected to define an experimental strategy in collaboration with the platforms scientists and be involved in the data analysis process.

Type and size

Cooperation task: 
SME 11-50,University,Inventor,R&D Institution,SME <10,>500 MNE,251-500,SME 51-250,>500