To address a number of performance issues related to electron microscopy, the University of Wollongong has constructed a purpose built electron microscopy centre that was completed in July 2011, and purchased a comprehensive suite of specimen preparation equipment that is now operational for materials and life sciences. The centre will house up to 7 electron microscopes with two preparation laboratories, and has been designed to exceed the environmental specifications for the current generation of commercially available electron microscopes including aberration corrected S/TEMs. Currently two FEGSEm’s and a TEM have been relocated to the facility and are fully operational. Leica was selected as a major supplier for the specimen preparation equipment based on equipment specifi cations, product integration, demonstrated capability, ease of use, automation and applications support. These will be supplemented with an Leica M205A stereo, Leica DM2500 M and Leica DM6000 M optical microscopes for quality control during specimen preparation and their value as stand-alone research tools. These factors will facilitate production of high quality specimens, and the training of a large user-base typical of a university environment.
The Leica EM TXP, EM TIC020 and EM RES101 were purchased to prepare materials for SEM and TEM based studies. The Leica EM TXP was selected for its ability to prepare TEM specimens and perform target grinding. The ability to perform these functions while being viewed directly to assess quality and increase specimen throughput was seen as a major advantage. The Leica EM TIC020 was selected for its ability to prepare large, damage free areas of specimens for low voltage, high resolution SEM imaging, Electron Backscatter Diffraction (EBSD) and Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy (EDS). The Leica EM TXP and EM TIC020 instruments have already been utilized for the preparation of Magnesium diboride (MgB2) superconducting wires. MgB2 is a challenge to prepare because it is brittle and sensitive to water. Of particular interest are defects such as pores, cracks or impurities at the Mg and B grain boundaries after processing, which preparation artefacts can influence. Transverse and longitudinal orientations of MgB2 wires encapsulated in Niobium (Nb) metal and Inconel alloys, were prepared using the Leica EM TXP and EM TIC020 instruments. The specimens were glued to the small Leica EM TIC sample holders, then clamped for preparation on the Leica EM TXP using the procedure in Table 1.