Observations from a ZEISS executive leader on one of the largest microscopy conferences in the world
The annual Microscopy & Microanalysis (M&M) conference was recently held in Portland, Oregon, USA. ZEISS is one of the largest sponsors and exhibitors at this meeting for the Microscopy Society of America that is dedicated to the promotion and advancement of techniques and applications of microscopy and microanalysis in all relevant scientific disciplines.
In attendance was Allister McBride, a senior director at ZEISS who is responsible for materials research strategy. This includes understanding new trends in the market, translating those into customer needs, and working with R&D to create innovative solutions. Allister provided the following commentary on what he felt were some of the more interesting new trends and topics at this year’s M&M.
Overarching themes observed at M&M
This year’s M&M conference really impressed with the quality of the conference talks. This was clearly visible as many of the conference rooms were standing room only. The conference themes this year have moved away from discussing incremental instrumentation hardware improvements and were much more related to direct megatrends such as batteries, additive manufacturing and advanced material characterization. Many of the presentations discussed API driven automated experiments across the microscopy spectrum involving in situ rigs or 3D/4D analytical techniques.
Multidimensional and multimodal characterization
There was a definite theme of performing multidimensional and multimodal characterization using different modalities. For examples, work done in talk 616 “Nondestructive 3D Nanoscale X-Ray Imaging of Solid Oxide Fuel Cells in the Laboratory” from the Colorado School of Mines and talk 617 “High Resolution 3D and 4D Characterization of Microstructure Formation in Novel Ti Alloys for Additive Manufacturing” from RWTH Aachen gave excellent examples of how this technique is used across two megatrend topics of solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) and additive manufacturing research, respectively. In line with the theme of multimodal analysis, ZEISS took the opportunity to provide an update on its Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (SIMS) developments using neon ions as the secondary ion source.
It really is a fantastic technology which is now enabling spatial resolutions of 15 nm as shown by the University of Cambridge in the poster “Analytics on the FIB: ORION-SIMS and the Discovery of a Unique, Chondrite-like, Precambrian Impactor.”
Combining multidimensional imaging with machine-based learning
Examples combining multidimensional characterization in a correlative manner were also demonstrated and this, combined with advanced segmentation techniques (EG. Session A02.1 – Data Acquisition Schemes, Machine Learning Algorithms, and Open Source Software Development for Electron Microscopy), produced some interesting results which could not have been achieved without the combination of multiscale, multidimensional correlated imaging combined with machine learning based multichannel segmentation.
This has recently become a hot topic as the power of machine learning to simultaneously segment datasets of various origins across length and dimensional scales is finding relevance in many diverse fields (e.g. A05.7-806 – “Projecting into the Third Dimension: 3D Ore Mineralogy via Machine Learning of Automated Mineralogy and X-Ray Microscopy”).
X-ray microscopy was also a large theme across the board which shows that the conference itself has grown much broader than its initial roots in scanning electron microscopy. It was really fascinating to see how the resolution of this technique is increasing with a great example showing spirals forming from eutectic solidification in work by the University of Michigan (A05.4-336 – “Formation of Faceted Spirals during Directional Eutectic Solidification”) at ~50 nm resolution.
Overall, the depth and breadth of topics covered resonated extremely well with technology investments that ZEISS has made over the past several years and it was great to see customers using these capabilities in new and interesting ways.
A great example of this was talk A10.P2-1167 – “A Fast and Accurate Workflow for Analytic 3D FIBSEM Tomography” which was a collaborative talk between ZEISS and The University of Plymouth using the ZEISS Crossbeam FIB-SEM.