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Businesses discover power of 3D microscopy

Businesses from across the South West attended an event on 10th November to discover how Plymouth University’s aspiration to invest in 3D electron microscopy could benefit them.


Engineers from sectors as diverse as photonics, anaerobic digestion, mineralogy, aerospace and precision bearing engineering learned about the ambition of Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre’s (PEMC), based on the University’s main campus, to enhance its offer to businesses by investing in the next generation in electron microscopy analysis.

 

Leading manufacturer of electron optical systems, TESCAN, introduced businesses and academics to their focussed ion beam scanning electron microscope (FIB-SEM), which produces highly-magnified 3D images of objects. Some companies brought along their products for analysis, to put FIB-SEM, to the test.

 

Established 30 years ago, PEMC was transformed in 2010 as part of a £1.3million three-year project, jointly funded by the University, JEOL (UK) Ltd and a £579,960 grant from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). This established PEMC as a world-class centre for materials characterisation and analysis. Keen to maintain this position, PEMC has identified the FIB-SEM as the next step in electron microscopy analysis.

 

Claire Pearce, Project Manager for PEMC, said: 

“Receiving an injection of funding in 2010 helped Plymouth University take electron microscopy, traditionally the reserve of big business, out to small-medium sized companies. These SMEs are telling us that PEMC is making a real difference to their product quality, their R&D and ultimately their bottom line. For all our users, both businesses and academics, we want to ensure that PEMC maintains its position as a centre of excellence for materials imaging and analysis.”

Dr Roy Moate, Associate Professor in Electron Microscopy emphasised the importance of the unique 3D data sets acquired using the latest in FIB-SEM equipment to SW manufacturing companies:   

“The analysis of internal micro-structural and compositional properties is essential for understanding the performance of engineering materials. FIB-SEM would enable the automated acquisition of 3D information underpinning improvements in manufacturing processes and in quality control. Local access to this high level instrumentation would ensure businesses in important advanced engineering sectors are able to maintain and extend their competitive and technological advantage in the development of new products and the exploration of new markets”. 

Through GAIN, the PEMC team is working with partners to explore how local and international funding sources can best be used to enable SMEs to access specialist HE facilities - for anyone wanting to find out how their company could use PEMC, please contact emc@plymouth.ac.uk or 01752 588908.

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