Joint Development by Keio University and HORIBA Makes Possible Preprocessing for Electron Microscopes in Only 10 Seconds

April 10, 2006

HORIBA, Ltd. (Head Office: Kyoto; President Atsushi Horiba) and Keio University (led by Professor Kenichi Shimizu) have collaborated to develop the world's first device capable of preparing the surface of specimens for electron microscopes or optical microscopes in the extraordinarily short time of ten seconds. In comparison with conventional preprocessing, which can take as long as three hours, the new device cuts the time required by more than 1000-fold. Moreover, because the new device does not use etching reagents, treatment of waste liquids is unnecessary, helping to reduce the impact on the environment. The simplicity of the device's operation provides an added benefit by eliminating any variance between individuals that could occur because of different levels of expertise in handling the device.

This new device can greatly streamline microscope operations in such areas as quality control and cutting-edge fields of research, and contribute to reducing both the time needed to perform these operations and possible discrepancies.

A joint announcement of the results of this developmental work will be made by HORIBA and Professor Kenichi Shimizu of Keio University at the International Microscopy Congress to be held in Sapporo, Japan, from September 3. HORIBA plans to begin sales of the new device from this date.

Overview of the newly developed device

Observation of specimens through an electron microscope is very commonplace now, with observation being carried out in a very broad range of fields, including research and development in such cutting-edge fields as semiconductors and metals, and quality control.

But there is an element that is critical to obtaining the best results from these observations: the preprocessing of the surface of the specimens. Conventionally, ion beam devices or etching reagents have been used, depending on the objective, to prepare the specimen. However, there are a number of drawbacks associated with these processes, such as they consume a considerable amount of time, require knowledge of and incur costs for the treatment of waste liquids, and have an adverse impact on the environment. Moreover, as current methods of preprocessing require a high level of expertise, the technicians who must make preparations prior to carrying out the observation of a specimen have also been faced with the difficulty of not being able to perform preprocessing in a short period of time.

This new device, which was successfully developed through the collaborative efforts of HORIBA and Professor Kenichi Shimizu of Keio University, utilizes the sputtering technology developed by HORIBA to dramatically reduce the time to preprocess the surface of specimens for observation by electron or optical microscopes from three hours, which is standard for an ion beam device, to only ten seconds.

Operation of this device is so simple and easy that anyone can carry out preprocessing in an extraordinarily short period of time, without polluting the environment or changing or damaging the composition of the surface of the specimen.