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