Each month we post a new edition to the SES ‘Spotlight On…’ series, showcasing equipment at our institutions, providing information and case studies for interested researchers/industries, and promoting better use of already available equipment.
The HIM is a new type of microscope that uses helium ions for surface imaging and analysis. Its functionality is similar to a scanning electron microscope (SEM), but it uses a focused beam of helium ions instead of electrons. By comparison with state-of-the-art SEM, the HIM gives:
- higher resolution images from the 0.5 nm helium beam diameter
- better material contrast without the need for metal coating, even for biological samples
- 5 to 10 times greater depth of field
- “slice and view” capabilities for sub-surface imaging via an in-situ focused neon-ion beam
Name of Equipment
Helium Ion Microscope (HIM)
Any SLAs or standards (eg ISO, ..) associated with the facility:
255 m2 of ISO 14644-1 Class 6 (Class 1000) cleanroom space. This houses the majority of the equipment including Electron Beam Lithography tools. An ISO7 facility also houses three Focused Ion Beam (FIB) tools.
Do you have to visit onsite?
If the work is not to be outsourced, appropriate training on the HIM following a Health & Safety Induction would have to place prior to the work commencing
Do you give preference to a particular type of researcher? E.g. Based on institution, field of research.
Anyone can access the HIM as long as it can meet their research objectives and anticipated outcomes, and the necessary NDAs are in place
Many of our users are engaged in quantum-related research, but the equipment can be used across the breadth of nanotechnology research interests. The LCN is able to provide training to users and technical support, but the support staff are not directly involved in the in the individuals’ research.
What do the users think?
- “The helium ion microscope is a unique microstructural analysis support platform for our research and technology activities in nano-analysis and nano-processing, leading to exciting capabilities for cutting-edge correlative microscopy. Technical support at the LCN was very professional, enabling us to quickly obtain images of our biosamples with information that was not accessible using SEM”
– Professor Beverley Inkson, Department of Materials Science and Engineering (University of Sheffield)
“The LCN has a great microscope and great people. The service LCN provided with the helium ion microscope directly led to publications and has opened up some interesting new possible business opportunities”
– Dr James Sagar (Oxford Instruments)
Who has access?
The helium ion microscope is now being made available to the scientific and industrial communities. Users will benefit from dedicated technical support to ensure rapid turnaround and ultimate performance from the microscope
Are there any costs or associated fees?
There is an hourly charge associated with using the equipment. Academics are charged at a lower rate than commercial organisations
Can it be bought as a service with access to a team of experts?
We can do the work on behalf of individual/organisation but this would involve an additional cost on top for staff time
Where is it located?
London Centre for Nanotechnology
B204B FIB lab
17-19 Gordon Street
Image credit (text body): Detail of an uncoated blue-morpho butterfly wing taken with the LCN’s He ion microscope