Research Projects (selected examples)

Mikrostruktur von 3D-gedruckten metallischen Bauteilen – Microstructure of 3D-printed metallic components

Additive manufacturing (AM) processes produce 3D parts by adding thin layers of materials guided by a digital model. High performance lightweight engineered components for aerospace, medical, energy and automotive applications can be produced directly from the design without the need for expensive tooling which results in significant cost savings. However, understanding the process-structure-property relationship and its influence on thermo-mechanical properties of the fabricated metallic components is the key in the emerging research on 3D-printed metallic materials.

Within the framework of a FFG strategic project, two ACR research facilities, Graz Centre for Electron Microscopy (ZFE) and Österreichisches Giesserei Institut (ÖGI) in Leoben, cooperate to study the influence of the surface oxidation and microstructure of the metallic powders and the influence of the printing parameters on the microstructure and mechanical properties of the 3D-printed components.

Ex and in situ multiscale characterisation methods from atomic- to macro-scale as well as thermo-mechanical tests will be involved to determine the sub-mechanisms responsible for the changes in the mechanical properties. Effects such as recrystallization and formation/preservation of amorphous regions, evaporation and diffusion of different elements, changes in the chemical composition and nucleation of secondary phases are the focus of this research.

Project title: Mikrostruktur von 3D-gedruckten metallischen Bauteilen (Strategisches Projekt Austrian Cooperative Research ACR)
Project duration: 24 months
Starting date: 01.03.2018 – Feb 2020

Your contact at the ZFE Graz: Dr. Mihaela Albu | +43 (0) 316 873 8348

More information in German: Mikrostruktur im Fokus

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Staubanalyse in der Innenraumluft – Dust analysis of closed environments

What is house dust and how does it affect human health? Four Austrian companies launch a cross-disciplinary research project

Dust is a collective term to describe the wide variety of organic and inorganic particles that can accumulate in the home, school, office, or other closed environment. Europeans, on average, spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors. When e.g. walking around, dust particles are being stirred up into the air. Humans then breathe in these particles or absorb them through their skin. Reason enough to conduct a thorough study to fully understand its composition and its effects on the human body.

Within the research project four ACR-Institutes are working in close cooperation to analyse house dust and its influence as one of the major parameters affecting indoor air quality. Indoor concentrations of some pollutants have increased in recent decades due to manifold factors (energy-efficient building construction, increased use of synthetic building materials, furnishings, personal care products, pesticides, household cleaners). Plenty of them have already been subject to various analyses. House dust, however, has been neglected so far. Neither its composition nor its concentration have been given real consideration when it comes to its effects on indoor air quality and subsequently on human health.

Dust may consist of different kinds of volatile particles that collect in the home: shed human skin cells, pet dander, dust mites, pollen, bacteria, plant and insect parts, fibres, and many more. All of them have different structures and forms, a fact that makes research studies even more challenging. This research project combines the expertise of each institute and makes it possible to investigate house dust as vital part of indoor air quality, taking various factors into account: source identification, impact on occupants, distribution effects, filtration, and fixation.

Left: Distribution of oxygen (green) and sulphide (light blue) additionally tungsten was found in all particles under investigation; right: corresponding Raman spectroscopy confirms the chemistry and determines the oxidation state of the oxides (WS2 blue; WO3 red)

Project title: Staubanalyse in der Innenraumluft (Strategisches Projekt Austrian Cooperative Research ACR)
Project duration: 18 months
Starting date: 01.03.2018

Your contact at the ZFE Graz: Dr. Manfred Nachtnebel | +43 (0) 316 873 8831

More information: Staubanalyse in der Innenraumluft – IBO

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Quantitative Analyse innerer Grenzflächen – Quantitative analysis of internal interfaces

The FFG-funded project “Quantitative Analyse innerer Grenzflächen/Quantitative analysis of internal interfaces” is a cooperative research project that unites scientific challenges from five companies – ams, AT&S, EPCOS, Lam Research and Infineon – in order to forward both, knowledge about the microstructure of electronic devices and methods for quantitative nanoanalysis using the highly advanced TEM infrastructure available at the ZFE.

The scope of this project is the high-resolution analysis of internal interfaces in multilayer materials for electronic devices via aberration corrected STEM combined with HR EELS and EDS. For this purpose, a variety of different approaches for both, data acquisition and data analysis, is consequently refined to provide reliable and reproducible datasets with high accuracy in spatial and energetic resolution as well as in terms of quantitative reliability. At the same time, TEM sample preparation methods are sufficiently enhanced and modified to provide specimens with adequate quality.

Atomically resolved HR STEM image of an interface between silicon (bottom layer) and germanium (top layer), showing the effect of the slight discrepancy between the tow materials lattice parameters.

One of the project’s aims is the detection and analysis of interfacial layers, ranging from a few atomic layers to the sub-monolayer dimension. The properties and expanse of these transition regions are of major interest, since both can be crucial to device performance. Therefore, the EELS and EDS signals of the materials of interest are traced with high spatial and energetic resolution to yield detailed information about the chemical composition and the structure of those few atomic layers that form the interface between two different layers. For the subsequent processing of the acquired data, various signal optimisation and fit procedures are refined, finally leading to a more detailed comprehension of the nature of transition regions.

Project title: Quantitative Analyse innerer Grenzflächen
Project duration: 01.04.2015 – 31.10.2017

Browse through our results and download relevant PDFs  >> Project Results <<

Your contact at the ZFE Graz: Dr. Evelin Fisslthaler | +43 (0) 316 873 8834 & Dr. Werner Grogger | +43 (0) 316 873 8323

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Triple-S Microscope

During the last decade, the field of advanced microscopy shows strong trends towards correlated analyses by combining different but complementary microscopic and spectroscopic approaches for a comprehensive insight into material properties down to the lowest nanoscale. In the large pool of microscopy, scanning electron microscopes (SEM) represent a particularly important class of instruments as it provides resolution down to the nanoscale together with the capability to identify material with laterally resolved character. On the other hand, the application of focused ion beams (FIB) allows to open up surfaces in a highly localized manner, which makes subsequent analyses via electron beam possible. By that, such combined dual beam microscopes (DBM) allow surface, sub-surface or even 3D analyses of materials in a unique way. While meanwhile well established in research and development, such DBMs approach their intrinsic limitations in situations where a quantitative height information is indispensably required. In this context, atomic force microscopy (AFM) is the complementary technique of choice as it provides true 3D metrology with sub-nm resolution. The problem, however, is that there are only very few systems which combine all three microscopes within one system without limiting their individual capabilities. Based on this motivation, the FELMI-ZFE started the EU EUROSTARS project TRIPLE-S in 2013 together with the Vienna AFM company GETec Microscopy GmbH and further experts in Switzerland and Bulgaria. The aim of this project was to fuse together three of the most powerful high-resolution microscopes.

In essence, the TRIPLE-S microscope is a flexible platform, which allows all SEM based studies including the chemical analyses, further complemented by AFM based 3D morphology, phase mode imaging, nano-mechanical analyses and functional characterisation such as conductive-AFM. Furthermore, the application of the FIB together with the AFM high-speed capabilities enables true 3D tomography to access 3D material properties, which are complicated or even impossible to extract from SEM / FIB investigations. By that, the here anticipated TRIPLE-S microscopes opens up new possibilities in the area of correlated in situ nananalysis in yet unknown ways.

The Triple-S microscope is a flexible platform which combines a scanning electron microscope (SEM, e), a focused ion beam (FIB, Ga2+) and an atomic force microscope (AFM) without limiting their individual capabilities. By that, this platform provides individual access to different information such as SEM imaging, chemical analyses via energy dispersive X-ray scattering (EDX), 3D height information (AFM), qualitative and quantitative mechanical properties (phase, mechanical) or functional material parameters (conductive). Furthermore, functional nanofabrication using the FIB sputtering or particle induced nano-fabrication can be combined with the strengths of AFM in a straightforward manner.

Your contact at the ZFE Graz: Dr. Harald Plank | +43 (0) 316 873 8821

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