Conducting real-time observation of materials interactions at molecular-level resolution and in the native gas or liquid environment has been one of the frontiers of electron microscopy.
In transmission electron microscopy (TEM), imagery is subject to a high vacuum, making it extremely difficult to observe the dynamic interactions of unaltered samples in their native environments. The absence of an in-situ testing environment inside the microscope became a significant obstacle to advancing scientific observations across the fields of biomedical research, chemical engineering, materials science, and nanoscience.
A research team from the U.S. Army’s Engineer Research and Development Center, Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (ERDC-CERL) recognized the emerging need for new methods to obtain basic physical properties of nanoparticles in solution while using conventional imaging equipment. They partnered with researchers at the University of Illinois’ Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory (UI FS-MRL) to perform further investigations. These efforts subsequently led to a joint patent application in February 2009 for a wet sample TEM holding device that would enable the observation of basic physical properties of nanoparticles in solution.
These efforts subsequently led to a joint patent application in February 2009 for a wet sample TEM holding device that would enable the observation of basic physical properties of nanoparticles in solution.
In 2008, ERDC-CERL brought commercial capabilities in this fi eld together with funding from the Army Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) research program. Hummingbird Scientific was awarded an STTR Phase I contract based on a work plan deploying its own independent research for a solution. After establishing the excellence of its project approach, Hummingbird Scientific was granted Phase II project funding in October 2009. Company researchers have achieved significant breakthroughs in the development of an in-situ TEM holder that enables high-resolution imaging of the microstructure of materials in liquid environments. This state-of-the-art device allows direct correlation of materials properties with their microstructure and processing conditions while in relevant environments.
Hummingbird Scientific’s specimen fluid holder devices have been commercially available since 2010. In addition, researchers from Department of Energy laboratories have bought systems to further their energy materials research goals by performing in-situ TEM research into electrochemical processes that are relevant to battery materials and corrosion. Hummingbird Scientific has been approached by research groups around the country interested in purchasing its liquid holders to further the goals set out by their sponsoring agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and the Department of Commerce.