Dr. Jordan Moering, Mid-Atlantic Sales Manager, EDAX
Like any nerdy high schooler growing up in the suburbs of North Carolina, I had a lot of weird hobbies growing up. Some of these turned into scientific interests that brought me to grad school, and others just turned into party tricks (Rubik’s cube, anyone?). I’ve recently been thinking about one of these hobbies, especially after hearing our recent webinar on OIM Matrix and Forward Modeling.
When I was 15, I thought that rubber band balls were really cool. I’m not sure why, but I really enjoyed the twists and turns of the multiple layers of bands on top of each other. The aspect ratio of the band thickness to the curvature and angle of the bands was something I found really fascinating. Fast forward a few decades and what used to be a softball-sized rubber band ball is now a 12 kg behemoth that I pass every day while walking to my office. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to this ball recently because of how it mimics the dynamical diffraction simulation used in dictionary indexing.
Figure 1. (left) My 12 kg ball of rubber bands. (right) Simulated Kikuchi patterns for EBSD analysis.
I suppose what really fascinates me the most about these projections is how accurate they are. The fundamentals of diffraction can be so simply described in Bragg’s law, but the implications for these phenomena are profound. Because different crystallographic indices diffract incoming electrons at different intensities, the collected image shows the orientation of the crystal wherever the electron beam was parked. The resulting bands (called Kikuchi lines) are a direct representation of the material’s crystal structure.
Now, I’m not an expert on diffraction, but I find all this to be fascinating. What’s cool to me is that recent developments in computing and modeling have enabled new types of indexing. This includes Dictionary Indexing which utilizes an entirely synthesized library of diffraction patterns to correlate the likely orientation of every collected pattern when obtaining EBSD scans. What’s fascinating to me is that these simulations historically struggle to account for artifacts in the Kikuchi patterns like lens blurring, phosphor illumination, etc. With the advent of direct detection cameras however, there is no need to account for these as individual electrons create the image on the sensor. New techniques like forward model-based indexing are only accelerating the adoption of this new technique. And at the core of these new modeling techniques are simulations – simulations of Kikuchi patterns.
So yeah, I see my rubber band ball every day and think about simulated diffraction patterns. I suspect that it is a very low symmetry system based on the geometry.
Rudolf Krentik, Sales Manager – Central and Eastern Europe, EDAX
It has been some time since I started working at EDAX as an Area Sales Manager for Central and Eastern Europe. When I think about it, Russia is by far the largest region compared to all the others. If sales grew linearly with the size of the area, I would probably be a millionaire. Unfortunately, it is not the case. The primary purpose of my work is to take care of our distributors and business partners in individual countries. I give them support in business cases, provide up-to-date information about our products, and sometimes I am also an intermediary for the serious requirements of our end customers. The work is very interesting, especially because I meet interesting people. EDAX’s customers are primarily scientists and engineers studying materials, solving complex problems, and dealing with development and innovation. Such meetings are often very fun, inspiring, and rewarding.
Figure 1. My new office.
The market situation has changed dramatically since 2015, when I started. COVID-19 has completely changed the way we work. Instead of meeting customers at scientific conferences, we all locked ourselves in our homes for a long time. After three months, I couldn’t stand it and rented a small office so that I wouldn’t go crazy at my home office with my wife and two small children, who were also schooling and working from home. So I was moving from my home office to an actual office, doing just the opposite of what others were doing during the pandemic.
Moving from real life to the online world was probably frustrating for many of us. Still, we had to adapt and start selling and communicating over the phone and especially over the internet. Online presentations and meetings are still the order of the day. This way of communication will be maintained in the future, that is quite certain. Unfortunately, this does not replace personal contact, which is essential for creating a relationship with customers. It can already be seen that interest in virtual conferences is declining. People are inherently interactive and need to share their needs and feelings with each other. This is not possible in the world of the internet. Therefore, we all hope that everything will return to normal soon. Our service technicians have been traveling to places where it is safe for quite a long time, and we salespeople are also starting to plan our first trips abroad. I’m actually partly writing this blog in Turkey on my first trip in 18 months.
Although it does not seem so, COVID has not yet caused significant losses or loss of orders in terms of business results. Our business is still in good condition. One of the factors that affects this is the life cycle of a business case. This can take months or even years. If we do not soon return to the life we are used to; it will have very negative consequences for our field. I mention this because we are currently at the stage where we want to launch several exciting products. You probably know that Gatan also belongs to our AMETEK family. The company is known for its leading technology in detection systems in TEM and SEM and other devices, e.g., for sample preparation. The acquisition of Gatan is a great benefit not only for AMETEK but also for EDAX. The combination of know-how, development, and experience in the electron microscopy field creates space for innovation and synergies that would not be possible.
Several novelties were introduced three weeks ago at M&M 2021. It is worth mentioning the EDAX EDS Powered by Gatan, in which EDAX hardware is now integrated into the software from Gatan. This brings many benefits, such as a unified GUI for all the TEM techniques available from Gatan. EDS analysis with Elite T can now be performed seamlessly with Gatan EELS, 4D STEM (STEMx), or other techniques. This makes it all much easier and faster. And as we know, time is money, and this is doubly true for time spent at the TEM.
Another interesting novelty is the cooperation of EDS and CL detectors. Thanks to an EDS-compatible cathodoluminescence (CL) mirror that enables line of sight from the sample to the EDS detector while still collecting the CL signal, we can obtain information about the material’s structure that was previously difficult to achieve.
When it comes to EBSD, EDAX has been the leading provider of this technique since the 90s. But for reliable analysis, one needs a high-quality sample preparation tool. Again, with the Gatan PECS II, we can offer a complete workflow from getting the sample ready to post-processing of acquired data. The latest news is also the hottest news. With the help of the highly sensitive OnPoint BSE and Octane Elite EDS Detectors, it is possible to detect lithium for the first time and quantify it. Unique technology, the accuracy of which is verified by another method, is now available and we are very anxious to introduce this product to our customers.
That is why we need to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control. Without the opportunity to travel and meet our customers, our work will be inefficient and not as much fun. However, the newly introduced devices and the ongoing development of the EDAX-Gatan collaboration gives us a strong hope that everything is on track and that our efforts are worthwhile.
While it is easy to imagine late nights running EBSD scans, and I have pulled a few all-nighters over the years for special projects, the improvements in acquisition speeds and software have mostly eliminated the need for this for me. The title of this blog references back to my time in college when one of my favorite shows was Late Night with David Letterman. One of my favorite parts of this program was the famous and funny top ten lists, which I was thinking about while working on a more recent late-night project.
As a product manager, I am always trying to understand the EBSD market, as well as predict and prepare for what is coming next. One method I use is to analyze the keywords within EBSD publications. There has been an exponential increase in the number of EBSD papers each year. Figure 1 shows the distribution using EBSD as a keyword for searching ScienceDirect.
Figure 1. EBSD publications by year.
Using my modest programming skills, I extracted the keywords from the abstracts from these papers. I then performed a frequency analysis of these terms and classified them into material, application, and topic categories. I also had to identify synonyms. For example, additive manufacturing and 3D printing should be counted together. When completed, I was able to compile the top 10 lists for my different categories. In some cases, the results were what I expected, but there were some surprises. Figure 2 shows a word cloud, where the size of the word is proportional to the frequency of occurrence.
Figure 2. Word cloud based on the frequency of EBSD keywords.
During this process, I found many interesting papers I wanted to read. With 4,500+ publications in 2020, I know I cannot read them all. Even with the ones I did read, I found myself missing presentations. With the shift towards virtual conferences due to the pandemic, I can listen to talks at the recent ICOTOM and TMS meetings. When I read a paper, I bring my perspective, but when I hear a presentation, I understand the presenter’s perspective, and they know more about this material than I do. EDAX hosts several webinars each year, and recently we invited customers to present their research and results. A couple of weeks ago, Dr. Eric Payton from the Air Force Research Laboratory gave a webinar that tied making a toaster to President Herbert Hoover. then to robotic vacuum cleaners, and finally to artisanal alloys. It was a very interesting and engaging presentation and can be viewed on-demand from the EDAX website. I also look forward to the next webinar on May 27th when Dr. David Rowenhorst from the Naval Research Lab will present on 3D EBSD to investigate the microstructures of additively manufactured materials.
I also use social media to track trends for EBSD. Twitter has an active scientific community, and I follow many scientists who share their research online. This has led to opportunities to meet many of these people in person over the years. Coming from the commercial side, I will admit that I sometimes feel like an outsider, and I am a little hesitant at times to chime in on a discussion. I often find interesting work and share tweets with my colleagues. I recently found an article featuring EBSD maps from additively manufactured materials (yes, additive is pretty large in the word cloud) on Gizmodo (https://gizmodo.com/these-microscopic-maps-of-3d-printed-metals-look-like-a-1846669930). I shared this on social media platforms, both professionally and personally. I even reached out to Jake Benzing at NIST to compliment the wonderful results. I really enjoy being able to connect with our users, and see what they do with our tools to further their work.
It has been a tough year for all of us – at times, I get cabin fever and feel boxed-in. The recent holiday break was a pleasant diversion. Even though we weren’t able to gather like we usually do, we did get to spend some time with a couple of our grandkids. As we opened gifts, per the usual stereotype, our youngest grandson had more fun playing with the boxes than the toys in them! Since today’s blog is on boxes, Figure 1 shows a picture of our granddaughter atop an old toy box. Yes, she is more than willing to pose for the camera.
Figure 1. My granddaughter atop a toy box I built many years ago.
So why the picture of a toy box? That toy box is 32 years old and has a tie-in to the development of EBSD (since I am getting older, I’m allowed to be a bit nostalgic.)
I joined Professor Brent Adams’ group as an undergrad at BYU in 1985. Brent was working on the orientation coherence function (OCF) at the time, which is a statistical description of crystallographic orientation arrangement within a polycrystalline microstructure. One of the Ph.D. students, T. T. Wang, went off to what was then the Alcoa Technical Center to make orientation measurements using selected area diffraction – a painstakingly slow process. He returned with a large set of Euler angles and a box of micrographs with numbered spots to indicate where the orientation measurements were from. My assignment was to digitize those micrographs – both to manually point-and-click each grain vertex and to write software to use those vertices to reconstruct and visualize the digital microstructure. Figure 2 shows one example from the set of 9 section planes. The entire set contained 5,439 grains and 21,221 boundaries. It was a lot of tedious work.
Figure 2. Digitized microstructure from aluminum tubing for work reported in B. L. Adams, P. R. Morris, T. T. Wang, K. S. Willden and S. I. Wright (1987). “Description of orientation coherence in polycrystalline materials.” Acta Metallurgica 35: 2935-2946.
When Brent saw David Dingley’s presentation on EBSD at ICOTOM in 1987, he got very excited as he realized how much it could help with our group’s data collection needs. We got the first EBSD system in the US shortly after ICOTOM. It was installed on an old SEM in the botany department. The system was all computer-controlled, but it still required a user to manually (with the mouse) identify zone axes in each EBSD pattern to be indexed. It was a huge step forward for our research group. Brent quickly envisioned a fully automated system for site-specific orientation measurements. In 1988, Professor Adams moved to Yale University. I was fortunate to be invited to be a member of the research team that accompanied him. My wife and I boxed up our belongings and moved our small family of four from Utah to Connecticut for our new adventure.
The first few weeks at Yale were spent cleaning out an old laboratory space (some items even went to the Yale museum) in preparation for receiving our new CamScan SEM and the next generation EBSD system from David Dingley. When the SEM boxes arrived at the lab, we were very excited to see the microscope uncrated and installed. It was great to have our own microscope to work with, and we waited in eager anticipation for David’s arrival to install the new EBSD system. Unfortunately, I don’t have many photos from the Yale lab, but Figure 3 shows one with three of my colleagues in front of the SEM.
Figure 3. Brent Adams, John Hack, and Karsten Kunze in the SEM lab at Yale.
After everything was installed, there were a lot of wooden boards left over from all the crates in which the equipment was shipped. Being the stereotypical poor-starving student, I saw the wood as an opportunity. I diverted the bigger pieces of wood to my car instead of the dumpster and took them to our apartment. It was enough wood to build a toy box for each of our two kids (Figure 4).
Figure 4. Building a toy box with my kids while at Yale.
A picture of the SEM at BYU (Brent returned to BYU after I graduated in 1992 and brought the system with him back to BYU) can be seen in Figure 5. Note all the boxes surrounding the instrument. In the very first system, instead of controlling the SEM beam, we moved the sample under a stationary beam using piezoelectric stages. In this photo, the camera was fixed so that it was always inserted into the microscope chamber, so there wasn’t a box to control the slide yet. Eventually, the stages were replaced with beam control, the SEM image could be viewed live on the workstation monitor, the camera was controlled through the computer, the image processing was done in the computer, the camera slide was controlled in software until we reached the modern, streamlined systems we are accustomed to today.
Figure 5. Photo of the first fully automated EBSD system in a lab at BYU (originally at Yale but later moved to BYU).
The old SEM was scrapped several years ago, but the two toy boxes are still in use and filled with “stuffies” as my granddaughter likes to say. So, just like the presents under the Christmas tree, the SEM boxes are still providing entertainment long after the toys they once held have been recycled into new ones .
As an applications specialist, I have encountered various problems over the years. There is always a common goal among EBSD users—to improve the EBSD indexing rate. Even a user who mainly tests relatively easy steel samples may run into deformed samples and intergranular precipitates that are difficult to calibrate, so they still need to improve the indexing rate. Ideally, we want to get a beautiful EBSD IPF map like Figure 1; however, the reality is that we often fail to get a map with such a high indexing rate.
Figure 1. IPF map with a very high indexing rate.
Recently, I received a phone call from a customer asking for help. She had tricky ceramic samples with low crystallinity and fine grains, which are hard to index. The indexing success rate was only 5.48% from the area she tried to analyze (Figure 2). She wanted to see if we could improve it.
Figure 2. Ceramic sample with an indexing success rate of 5.48%.
Of course, we can.
EDAX has a set of solutions to improve the indexing rate, as shown in Figure 3. If I had a direct detector like the Clarity EBSD Analysis System, I would obviously get better results. However, I only have a CMOS-based Velocity Super in my lab.
During the data collection process, users can optimize different parameters, such as background processing, or Hough parameters, to fit real-world samples. Combined with a unique hexagonal grid sampling and triplet indexing solution, EDAX gets a better indexing rate, which is very important for challenging samples.
If the data is not ideal, we can process the result using NPAR. With NPAR, it averages the patterns to improve the indexing rate of challenging samples considerably. Also, in OIM Analysis v8.0 or higher, a module is available that can perform background processing again on the saved patterns to improve the indexing rate further.
Figure 3. EDAX’s optimized EBSD solution.
I analyzed the sample and saved the patterns. Then I used OIM Analysis to post-process the patterns, as shown in Figure 4. The original pattern is quite fuzzy, and the bands were not clear. After NPAR processing, it improves the signal-to-noise ratio of the pattern, and the bands became clearer after further background processing.
Figure 4. (a) The raw pattern, (b)NPAR, (c) NPAR+dataset background, and (d) NPAR+dataset background+dynamic background.
Of course, the processed patterns have indexing success rates. Figure 5 shows the IPF map of the data after a series of post-processing steps were taken, as described in Figure 4. The indexing success rate improved to 24.1%.
Figure 5. An IPF map with an indexing success rate of 24.1%.
For this user’s case, the indexing success rate was greatly improved and was within an acceptable range. But to achieve our goal of improving the indexing rate of challenging samples, there is much more that needs to be done.
The above indexing success rates were achieved after CI >0.1 filtering. For those points with a CI <0.1 (the black areas in the IPF map), we can further process them. EDAX recently added OIM Matrix, which includes dictionary indexing as a supplementary solution. As we all know, the result of dictionary indexing is usually better. I would expect a higher indexing success rate on the customer sample if I could use dictionary indexing to process it further.
If we push the limit, we can use the Clarity Direct Electron System to test this sample. In fact, the super-sensitive, low-beam current requirement is ideal for testing this type of sample. Maybe we can expect a better result with Clarity?
Figure 6. Will the result improve with Clarity?
The goal of improving the indexing rate can be summed up in one sentence from a Chinese poem published in roughly 300 BC: The journey is long, but I will search up and down.
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.
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!
Fred Ulmer, South East Regional Sales Manager, EDAX/Gatan
Roughly 10 years ago, I was introduced to the exciting world of research using Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM)/Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) principles. Working first as a Gatan field service engineer, then service manager. It was my first crash course in these research principles. It was a lot to take in at the time, but the excitement and enthusiasm shown by a customer when they have their new piece of equipment installed and begin to generate data was such a payoff. It seems like every year that there is a new, exciting technique or technology to apply to user’s research that enables researchers to keep getting better data.
Recently AMETEK purchased Gatan, which allowed for a great partnership between already owned EDAX and newly acquired Gatan. Also, I switched to sales from service at this time, becoming the South East Sales Manager with Gatan, and shortly after, I became the EDAX South East Sales Manager. Again, a lot to take in at the time, but it was rest assuring that EDAX, like Gatan, is at the forefront of TEM/SEM research.
One of the most technological advances I witnessed was the introduction of the K2 & K3 direct detection cameras for TEM from Gatan. This technology has allowed users to achieve data that was previously unheard of. From cryo-techniques to direct detection Electron Energy Loss Spectroscopy (EELS), these systems have become a game-changer.
Figure 1. Breakthrough K3 result: 2.7 Å structure of the 20S Proteasome with the K3 camera and Elsa cryo-holder on a TF20. Data courtesy of Alexander Myasnikov, Michael Braunfeld, Yifan Cheng, and David Agard.
Unsure of how, or even if direct detection could be used in the SEM world, it was exciting to get word from EDAX that they were releasing a direct detection EBSD analysis system called the Clarity. This system is the world’s first EBSD detector based on direct detection technology. Current EBSD non-direct detection detectors have some drawbacks that include grain size and film thickness, causing localized blooming and some imaging artifacts in the EBSD patterns. So how does the Clarity overcome these drawbacks? It comes from the inherent design and technology of the detector. The Clarity does not require a phosphor screen or light transfer system. The technology uses a CMOS detector coupled to a silicon sensor. The incident electrons generate several electron-hole pairs within the silicon upon impact, and a bias voltage moves the charge toward the underlying CMOS detector, where it counts each event. This method is so sensitive that it can detect individual electrons. Coupled with zero read noise, the Clarity provides unprecedented performance for EBSD pattern collection. It can successfully detect and analyze patterns comprised of less than 10 electrons per pixel.
Figure 2. High-quality EBSD patterns collected with Clarity from a) silicon, b) olivine, and c) quartz.
Figure 3. Intensity profile across (113) band from the Hikari Super (blue) and Clarity (red) detectors showing improved contrast and sharpness with direct detection.
Direct detection will benefit many research areas like in‐situ microscopy, EBSD, 4D STEM, imaging beam sensitive materials, quantitative measurement of radiation damage, or quantitative electron microscopy. I am excited to see how the new generation of direct detection, like the EDAX Clarity, will continue to revolutionize the field of electron microscopy. Direct detection and electron counting are poised to advance electron microscopy into a new era. Let’s go direct detect!
I firmly believe that one of the factors that has helped EBSD advance as a microanalytical technique is that it makes beautiful pictures. Of course, these images are packed with valuable information regarding the microstructure of materials. But in addition to this scientific content, they catch your eye. In our lab, we have taken advantage of this by hanging the covers of different journals and publications that feature EBSD images collected with EDAX equipment (Figure 1). Some of these are images we have collected internally, and others are from our customers. It is a fun reminder of interesting work that has been done over the years.
Figure 1. Our EBSD cover collection.
We have had an exciting past 18 months with the EBSD product line at EDAX. We launched our Velocity high-speed CMOS camera, which delivers greater than 4,500 indexed points per second. We released the APEX Software for EBSD, our new data collection platform with powerful analytical capability coupled with an easy-to-use interface. We introduced our groundbreaking Clarity EBSD Analysis System, which is the first commercial direct detection system designed for EBSD. As part of the development, testing, and marketing of these new products, I have used these products to collect thousands of images, some of which are utilized to highlight the performance of these new tools.
So how do you choose what makes a good EBSD image? The first step is often picking an interesting sample, but interesting is in the eye of the beholder. Some examples are selected because they use specific materials, like aluminum, magnesium, or steel. I like samples that have interesting microstructures. Sometimes, this is from a novel processing approach, like friction stir welding or equal channel angular processing. Sometimes, it is from a multi-phase microstructure, where structure and chemistry can be characterized simultaneously with EDS-EBSD. Sometimes, it is application focused. In this example, I have selected a sample because it is an additively manufactured nickel alloy. Additive manufacturing is a market with growing interest, and the microstructure is important because it influences the final properties of the material.
Figure 2 shows an Inverse Pole Figure (IPF) map of this material, collected with the Velocity Super at >4,500 indexed points per second. This IPF map is colored relative to the surface normal direction, and I have included a (001) pole figure to show the crystallographic texture and a colored IPF key to help decipher the relationship between the colors and the crystal orientations, which is good practice. This image is interesting because it shows a (001) fiber texture, which explains why many of the grains are shaded red. This helps researchers understand how these grains were growing during the additive manufacturing process. But is it visually appealing? That’s a question I often ask as I share these images for different possible uses.
Figure 2. IPF Map of an additively manufactured nickel alloy collected with the Velocity Super at >4,500 indexed points per second.
One possible approach to improving the visual appeal of this map is to superimpose it with a grayscale image derived from other EBSD measurement metrics. Figure 3 shows the same IPF map combined with an Image Quality (IQ) map and a PRIAS (center) map. The IQ value is derived from measuring the brightness and sharpness of the diffraction bands within the EBSD patterns. The PRIAS map is calculated from the intensity of the signal onto an ROI positioned within the center of the EBSD detector. Both signals show microstructural contrast and add supplemental information to the IPF map.
Figure 3. IPF map combined with Image Quality (left) and PRIAS center (right) contrasts.
How about the colors, though? Is it too red? I hear that sometimes, but I wonder if it is because of the rivalry between the University of Utah (red – where I went to school) and Brigham Young University (blue – where some of my co-workers went to school). What can I do about this? One approach is to specify the IPF map relative to a different direction than the surface normal direction. Figure 4 shows an IPF map where I have selected a  sample vector. While it is harder to relate this to the fundamental additive manufacturing process, it does show how you are not limited to specific sample directions. This can be useful if, for example, the thermal gradient present during processing it not aligned with the sample normal direction. In this case, it gives us a different color distribution representing the same microstructure. Is this better?
Figure 4. IPF map relative to the  sample direction.
I have been looking at these maps for 25+ years now, so sometimes it is the new and novel that catches my eye. Figure 5 shows the same microstructure colored using a Quaternion Misorientation scheme. Here a reference orientation is used as a baseline, and the misorientation from this reference is used for coloring. Our OIM Analysis software has a wide range of different methods for visualizing microstructures. I personally really like the way this one looks. It is as much art as science.
Figure 5. IPF map with Quaternion Misorientation coloring.
When images meet those aesthetic criteria, they can be used for marketing, publications, covers, and even clothing. Figure 6 shows a scarf printed using an IPF from a skutterudite material. The crystallization of this material looks a bit like exploding fireworks. I have heard plenty of times that we should be in the tie or T-shirt business with the array of stunning images we can produce. I am always amazed that beyond visual appearance, the information on orientation, grain size and shape, deformation, and phase, among other things, that can be easily represented with EBSD. I hope to continue to find interesting examples to share with you. Special thanks to Tara Nylese for sharing the photo.