Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology
While nanotechnology is still considered a new field and is typically defined as anything dealing with functional structures in the 1-100 nm range, the history spans hundreds of years. The addition of nanoparticles of varying size to ceramics and glass leads to different colors was used in stained glass windows, while the inclusion of carbon nanoparticles in steel resulted in sharper and more durable blades. Though the presence of nanoparticles was unknown at the time, the development of the Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM), and Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM), has allowed us to visualize the structures and helped us to understand the functionality and behavior of materials on the nanometer scale.

Nanotechnology in general is an extremely broad field with applications in the pharmaceutical industry, life sciences, industrial production, food sciences, materials research, energy sector and semiconductor industry to name a few. A common theme for all the different fields is the need to visualize and characterize features and structures on the nanometer scale where Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (EDS), Electron BackScatter Diffraction (EBSD), and X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) all have proven to be invaluable tools.

An example of XRF applications could be in the solar cell or anti-reflective coating industry where thickness and compositional measurements can be done both in the production line for quality control and in the research lab. EDS also provides essential information, especially in combination with TEM, where the composition and potential surface oxidation or compositional changes can be imaged on the single particle scale. Due to the small size of the features involved, the use of transmission EBSD/TKD as a complementary technique to regular EBSD is also often applied.