MRL Wins NSF Major Instrumentation Award


Miranda Holloway

The Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory (MRL) will gain an atom probe instrument for three-dimensional imaging and analysis of materials thanks to a National Science Foundation (NSF) Major Research Instrumentation award.

The award, worth over $1.5 million, will provide MRL with a state-of-the-art local electrode atom probe which offers unprecedented detection efficiency and versatility. 

"Researchers at Illinois will have access to a new tool for analyzing atom-by-atom the microstructure of materials in three dimensions, with amazing resolution and speed," said co-principle investigator and Material Science and Engineering professor Pascal Bellon. "This unique technique was not available at Illinois until now." 

This instrument will be able to unravel the chemistry of nanostructures in three dimensions with sub-nanometer resolution in a number of different fields. The research that will come from this instrument will have impacts critical to the areas of energy, medicine, information technology, transportation, and the environment. 

"Atom probe tomography (APT) will help our community understand the atomistic limitations of existing materials and validate the development of new concepts and new materials," Bellon said.

Going forward, this instrument will be part of the User Facility at MRL. It will be accessible to use for research, and the data acquired will be secured but highly accessible. 

"The MRL user facilities will provide new educational opportunities for students through individual training, workshops and summer camps," Bellon said. "We are particularly excited by the fact the CAMECA/AMETEK and the MRL will enter into a new partnership, with the University of Illinois becoming the CAMECA APT training center for North America, thus expanding the benefits well beyond our campus."

Other PIs on the project include Jessica Krogstad, assistant professor of materials science and engineering; Jim Zuo, Ivan Racheff Professor of Materials Science and Engineering; Robert Maass, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, and Jean-Paul Allain, professor of nuclear, plasma, and radiological engineering.