JCDREAM provided substantial funds for Western Washington University to acquire its JEOL field-emission scanning electron microscope (FESEM). This new FESEM was installed in the fall of 2017 and is overseen by Scientific Technical Services, a division that services the entire University with support for research and teaching. The JEOL FESEM provides an array of imaging capabilities including nanometer resolution, in-lens imaging and scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) imaging. The accompanying Oxford energy-dispersive spectrometer (EDS) with a large-area silicon drift detector provides rapid quantitative elemental analysis. These capabilities are leading to significant advances in understanding materials pertinent to a broad range of scientific disciplines, including earth and planetary sciences, engineering and design, chemistry and materials science.
Research on the FESEM is largely conducted by undergraduate and graduate students. The JEOL is also introduced to students in several materials-related classes, and is an integral part of a new electron microscopy course offered annually through Western’s Materials Science program. The JEOL SEM not only advances the cutting-edge science of over a dozen faculty researchers, but provides hands-on applicable skills to the next generation of materials scientists.
The FESEM is used extensively by Dr. Ying Bao’s research group to characterize several types of nanoparticles, nanostructure assemblies, and nanoparticles in composite materials with controlled properties. Their research has exciting applications in ultra-sensitive sensors, highly efficient separation techniques, and energy-related devices.
Dr. Amanda Murphy’s research group designs biomaterials made from peptides and proteins that mimic the structure of native tissues, and merge biomaterials with nanoparticles. Dr. Murphy says the JEOL “has been invaluable to our work to help determine the size and composition of the fibers we produce.”
The research group of Dr. Mark Bussell is investigating mesoporous In-Ga oxides and phosphides as photocatalysts for CO2 conversion to solar fuels (e.g. methanol). Dr. Bussell’s group uses EDS to determine the In and Ga contents of the oxides and phosphides. They use the JEOL FESEM to probe the morphology of the oxides and phosphides to determine particle size and uniformity, as well as to confirm the mesoporous nature of the materials to the nanometer scale. The mesopores create large internal surface area, which is needed for surface catalyzed conversion of CO2 under light exposure.
Left: From the Bussell group, Ga2O3 catalyst particles exhibiting 3-10 nm mesopores
Top right: From the Murphy group, STEM dark-field images of electrospun silk fibers containing embedded gold nanorods
Bottom right: From the Bao Group, high resolution STEM bright-field image of silica-coated gold nanorods.