Lab Canada

Electron microscopy lab opens at NINT in Edmonton

Edmonton, AB – With the opening of a new electron microscopy facility, Canadian companies looking to reap the benefits of nanotechnology now have access to some of the world’s best microscopy expertise and equipment, including an environmental transmission electron microscope that can capture chemical reactions at the atomic level as they happen.

The National Institute for Nanotechnology (NINT) in Edmonton officially opened the Hitachi Electron Microscopy Product Centre (HEMiC) at a recent ceremony on the University of Alberta campus.

HEMiC, a $15-million collaboration between NINT and Hitachi High Technologies, offers important new electron microscopy research equipment and capabilities to Canada’s industrial and academic communities. Supported by Hitachi High Technologies, the federal and Alberta governments, and the University of Alberta, the centre will also will further support the development, evaluation and commercialization of NINT microscope innovations.

The new facility is home to three of Hitachi’s newest models, including the first installation outside Japan of a rare Hitachi environmental transmission electron (E-TEM) instrument that can image chemical reactions at the atomic level in real time. Another microscope combines an ion beam with the standard scanning electron source to image nanometre-thin cross sections of samples for specialized uses.

The microscopes include:

– The Hitachi H-9500 environmental transmission electron microscope (E-TEM), which can study chemical reactions of samples in liquids and gases. Its capabilities include the possibility to heat the sample to temperatures exceeding 1500°C while exposed to various gases or study liquid samples at temperatures exceeding 300°C.

– The Hitachi S-5500 scanning electron microscope (SEM), which is one of the world’s highest resolution SEMs, which permits morphological observation down to nearly atomic or molecular structures of various materials.

– The Hitachi NB5000 focused ion beam + SEM, which combines the capabilities of high resolution scanning electron microscope (SEM) and a focused ion beam (FIB) column in one instrument. Samples can be simultaneously sliced by FIB and analyzed by SEM, in some cases yielding three-dimensional chemical and structural information at scales smaller than10 nanometres in length.

“This opening signifies that we’re full-on capable of delivering on the value proposition of the project,” says Rick Brommeland, NINT’s director of business development and external relations. “This positions NINT to be the pre-eminent electron microscopy facility in the country in terms of combined breadth of expertise and depth of capability.”

HEMiC has evolved in stages, with NINT running the electron microscopes in temporary labs for months, but controlled temperature and atmospheric stability in the newly opened operational spaces will ensure consistent peak performance.

HEMiC offers industrial and academic clients contract access to researchers with a range of powerful imaging tools and techniques. It’s a type of facility normally available only to very large organizations.

The partners also benefit: Hitachi gains expertise from NINT scientists and engineers who will assist development of new Hitachi product features. The company will also refer potential electron microscope customers to HEMiC so they can gain hands-on experience with new instruments and techniques before buying.

In return, NINT gains priority access to new tools and techniques from Hitachi, and a working relationship that ensures a solid channel to market for its new electron microscope ion and electron beam technologies.

Public sector contributions came from Western Economic Diversification Canada ($3.4 million), National Research Council of Canada ($3.8 million), Alberta government ($3.4 million), and the University of Alberta ($1.5 million). A financial contribution to the project was also made by Hitachi High Technologies Canada.