A new way to magnify the view

Missouri S&T has a new research toy – a focused ion beam (FIB) scanning electron microscope that is capable of shrinking images of objects a million times and then etching them on the head of a pin.

The piece of equipment, which cost more than $1 million, was purchased through Missouri S&T’s Center for Aerospace Manufacturing Technologies with funds made available by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory. Missouri S&T is the first university in the state to have its own FIB microscope.

Missouri S&T researchers plan to use the FIB machine to see nano-scale changes in metals that have been stressed and to make tiny images of ancient bacteria that are trapped in salt crystals.


F. Scott Miller and Missouri S&T’s new million-dollar microscope. Photo by B.A. Rupert

“One of the biggest advantages is that we’re used to looking at only the outer surfaces of materials,” says F. Scott Miller, PhD MetE’99, associate professor of materials science and engineering. “We now have the ability to look deeper and deeper into a sample. It’s like peeling the layers of an onion.”

Miller recently illustrated the FIB machine’s capabilities by reproducing Missouri S&T’s new logo near the eye of a sewing needle. Miller was able to etch a microscopic replica of the logo into the needle’s surface.

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