Month: November 2020


Dave Durham, Western Region Sales Manager, EDAX/Gatan

We are quickly approaching that special season where we are encouraged to momentarily put aside our busy schedules and take an inventory of the things in our lives that we may not have had a chance to appreciate throughout the year. Considering the pandemic we’ve all been experiencing during the majority of 2020, I think it is especially important to stay optimistic and find the positive things that have materialized during this challenging and weird year.

Professionally, as a salesperson for the company, I am undoubtedly very thankful for the fact that the team at EDAX has had the resolve to release several new and compelling products this year. Amazing! Even considering the challenges of 2020, there has been a steady stream of recent upgrades and technology that have allowed us to provide our customers with groundbreaking tools to make their work and research even more successful. All this during a period where, I would have thought, very little innovation would be introduced in the field.

First was the release of APEX™ 2.0 for Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy (EDS) and Electron Backscatter Diffraction (EBSD). This was a substantial upgrade to the APEX Software interface, integrating it with our EBSD product line, allowing our customers to analyze their sample’s compositional and structural characteristics, and implementing a handful of other critical improvements to the capabilities and functionality of the platform.

Figure 1. APEX Software user interface.

Then we announced the launch of the new Lambda™ WDS product line. These spectrometers utilize a proprietary X-ray optical module to give them much better sensitivity at low energies and extend the energy limit beyond 15 keV, giving them superior performance in compositional analysis within WDS applications.

Figure 2. Lambda WDS Analysis System.

We followed that up with another huge announcement – the release of our Clarity™ EBSD Analysis System. The Clarity is the world’s first commercially available direct detector of its type designed for EBSD, ideal for operating at low currents and low voltages, where typical phosphor-based EBSD technology is unable to collect usable EBSD patterns. This detector truly opens a new window into sample types and applications that have never been possible with EBSD analysis. Very impressive!

Figure 3. Clarity EBSD Analysis System.

Lastly, we released OIM Analysis™ v8.5, an improved version of our renowned post-processing analysis software for EBSD. This new revision added compatibility with APEX 2.0 and support for OIM Matrix™, for dynamic pattern simulation and dictionary indexing, as well as a few significant upgrades to user functionality and ease-of-use.

Figure 4. Schematic of the dictionary indexing processes in OIM Matrix using a library of simulated patterns.

I want to give my sincere thanks to all the folks at EDAX who played a part in bringing each of these products to fruition in 2020. I appreciate the hard work you put in this year, in addition to the multiple years it takes to bring new products to market. I’m thankful that you’ve made my job easier as a salesperson, helping me keep customers excited and engaged with new products. And you’ve also played a significant part in advancing our customer’s research and productivity.

On a side note, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also say that I was thankful for the new sample preparation instruments, the Ilion II and PECS II, added to our product portfolio the AMETEK acquisition of Gatan this year. While the instruments themselves were not released in 2020, they are “new” to me, and I am very excited to introduce them to our customers moving forward. I believe they will allow the EBSD community to spend significantly less time preparing their samples for analysis while providing substantially better patterns than what they’re used to seeing through typical sample preparation techniques. We recently released an experiment brief on the subject.

Figure 5. (left) Gatan Ilion II System and (right) Gatan PECS II System.

Finally, I’m thankful for my health – I’ve lost about 15 pounds this year and feel like I’m in the best shape I’ve been in two decades. I’m also very thankful for my family, kids, and friends, whom I love and have loved me and supported me through all of 2020’s ups and downs. When I think of everything that has been going on in the world and how there are still so many good things going on in my life, considering all of the things that could have taken a turn for the worst, I’m thankful for that too. And all of that makes me enthusiastic and hopeful for a better year in 2021.

What are you thankful for?

Figure 6. Dave Durham and his three children.

Do Vintage Toy Cars Contain Lead?

Dr. Shangshang Mu, Applications Engineer, EDAX

Collecting die-cast toy cars is a childhood hobby that I picked up again twelve years ago. As kids play with Hot Wheels in the United States, you are sure to remember Matchbox toy cars if you were a kid in the 1980s and 1990s in China, like me. The brand originated in the United Kingdom and was given its name because the original die-cast toy cars were sold in boxes similar to those in which matches came in. I stepped into this mini world at the age of four when my father bought me my first Matchbox toy car. During my adolescence, I enjoyed exploring my gradually growing collection. Many years later, when I was in graduate school, these toy cars captured my attention again while I was shopping for groceries. I ran into a small section with some Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars hanging on the pegs. I was so excited to see that my favorite childhood toy brand was still alive and immediately reconnected with my old hobby.

Besides collecting toy cars released in the current year, I started to search on the internet to re-collect the same un-opened models that became worn and even destroyed in my childhood. Soon, I expanded my collection to include toy cars made in the 1970s and even 1960s and started to collect detailed scale model cars that are about the same size. Although collecting Matchbox or Hot Wheels cars is a hobby that attracts a lot of adult fans around the world, these cars are toys that do not have small parts, and all the vehicle types are about three inches in length, regardless if it is a passenger car or a truck (Figure 1). On the other hand, matchbox-sized detailed model cars are classified as 1/64 the size of the actual automobile, with many small parts that are only suitable for ages fourteen and up. 1/64 scale models bring back memories in another way because I am collecting models of classic cars and trucks from the era in which I grew up. Figure 2 shows some impressive cars from my childhood and a fire engine from my neighborhood in Boston.

Figure 1. A vintage railway playset from 1979 that my daughter likes to play with, and some toy cars ranging from the 1970s to 2010s.

Figure 2. Some matchbox-sized detailed models (1/64 scale) of the cars and trucks that I grew up with.

Sometimes my five-year-old daughter rolls my toy cars on racetracks to figure out which one is the fastest. She also likes playing with my vintage railway playset. As a parent, my daughter’s interest made me a little concerned about lead paint since some of the toy cars she plays with were manufactured decades ago. For example, the railway playset dates back to 1979. Safety standards have been changed and revised over time, so I decided to figure out if these toys are lead-free. As an Applications Engineer at EDAX, I had more than one choice of material characterization technique. The Orbis Micro-XRF Analyzer can do non-destructive elemental analysis with the flexibility to work across a wide range of sample types and shapes, meaning I could put the toy cars directly into the analyzer to get the results. At that time, I was in the middle of testing new features in our new APEX™ 2.0 Software for EDS, so I decided to go with Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy (EDS) to give the new Batch Mode feature a try. With the benefits of EDS analysis and the Batch Mode feature in the APEX 2.0 Software, I was able to load all the paint samples into the SEM chamber and run them all at once using an Octane Elite Silicon Drift Detector. I scratched a tiny paint chip from each toy car and stuck it on a 25 mm adhesive carbon tab. Overall, I got 28 samples to analyze, ranging from the 1960s to the 2010s. They were mostly Matchbox, including the cars my daughter plays with, but some were also from other major toy car brands sold in the United States (Figure 3).

Figure 3. A 25 mm adhesive carbon tab with paint samples from my toy cars

The Batch Mode operation allows you to collect data sets at different stage positions as a batch operation. Since the paint samples were hand stuck on the tab, the distance between adjacent samples was relatively large, and a single field of view was only able to show one sample. The Batch Mode feature’s automated stage movement was extremely useful in covering the paint samples all over the carbon tab in one operation batch. I was able to store all the paint samples in a batch list, set up collection parameters (Figure 4), and click on the Collect button to wait for all the samples’ results. Fortunately, the results show that all the samples I analyzed do not contain lead. The identified characteristic peaks were correlated to the paint samples’ colors; titanium dioxide and zinc oxide were white, carbon was black, and sulfur-containing sodium silicate was blue (Figure 5).

Figure 4. The growing batch list of the paint samples.

Figure 5. Selected SEM images and spectra overlay of the paint samples. The arrow indicates that no Pb L peak (10.55 keV) is present.

On a side note, it was relatively easy to identify a single element from a bunch of spectra that the energy region around the lead peak was pretty clean without any overlapping peaks. I simply had to overlay all the spectra together and see if the lead peak stuck up from the background. If you need to identify multiple compounds of contaminants from various samples, examining every spectrum or doing quantification analysis and comparing how close these numbers are over and over again is very time-consuming. An easy solution is to use the Spectrum Matching feature provided by the APEX 2.0 Software. You can collect spectra from those contaminants to build a library for them first, and then you can run Spectrum Matching to compare the unknown samples to the library. If Spectrum Matching finds more than three matches for an unknown sample, it will display the top three matches with numerical values of fit% for each unknown sample. This feature provides a remarkable benefit in improving the efficiency of your experimental work.

Now, I can stop worrying about the toxic component and let my daughter play with the vintage toy cars as she likes. My only concern is that some are hard to find now, so be careful and don’t break my vintage toy cars!