Western Kentucky University’s Applied Physics Institute is receiving a $2.7 million scanning electron microscope from the U.S. Department of Energy that is one of the largest such microscopes in the world.
“For the university, the SEM is a unique instrument that places WKU at the forefront of scientific research,” said Dr. Edward Kintzel, assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and project manager who acquired the instrument for WKU. Kintzel said similar large-chamber SEMs (LC-SEM) are typically located at research facilities or military installations. The SEM is being moved from Oak Ridge National Laboratory to WKU.
When the SEM is installed and operational by early in the spring 2010 semester, the instrument will be publicly accessible, Kintzel said.
“We will become a national and international nexus for novel scientific research,” said Kintzel, who worked as a postdoctoral research associate with the Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. “We are looking for partnerships around the country for companies who would like to be able to improve the quality of their products by taking advantage of the unique capabilities this instrument offers. This is a win for the company, a win for the general public in improvement of products that affect their daily lives, and a win for the university as we strive to become a national and international leader in materials science.”
The LC-SEM is a one-of-a-kind instrument that weighs about 18,000 pounds and has a scanning chamber that accommodates a sample up to 40 inches in diameter, 40 inches tall and up to 650 pounds – large enough for an automobile engine block. The instrument can magnify up to 100,000 times and offers high-resolution imaging for surface analysis, chemical analysis, materials identification, quality control, metal microstructure, subsurface examination and more.
“This instrument has an incredible, wide range of applications for businesses, industries and our campus,” Kintzel said. “The SEM will benefit a broad spectrum of disciplines not only across Ogden College of Science and Engineering, but across the university.”