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The InCAEM project: new equipment has arrived!

The In-situ Correlative Facility for Advanced Energy Materials (InCAEM), directly linked to the ALBA Synchrotron, is in full development to enable correlative in-situ (Scanning) Transmission Electron Microscopy ((S)TEM), Scanning Probe Microscopies (SPM) and synchrotron radiation experiments for addressing some of the scientific challenges of the European Green Deal plan, to promote a more sustainable EU economy. It is part of the Planes Complementarios program, within the Advanced Materials project, launched and cofunded by the Ministry of Science and Innovation together with the Generalitat de Catalunya, with the support of NextGeneration EU funds.

07 May 2024

The joint collaboration team from the ICN2, ICMAB-CSIC, IFAE-PIC and ALBA Synchrotron is working to install and commission a unique infrastructure that will enable the scientific community and industrial users to perform correlative in-situ experiments, combining (S)TEM and SPM (AFM/STM) instrumentation with synchrotron radiation techniques at different beamlines of the ALBA Synchrotron. Beyond the different instruments to be installed and/or adapted, InCAEM also includes the development of a robust computing infrastructure and methods for automated data analysis, particularly for in-situ experiments. This approach is necessary in view of the enormous amount of data expected in order to streamline the experimental workflow, enhance data interpretation, and accelerate scientific discovery, ultimately advancing our understanding of materials for energy and environmental applications.

Within the project a new SPM Platform will be setup in the ALBA premises. It will host five different instruments, each one with specific, complementary capabilities. Two microscopes will provide state-of-art multi-technique AFM (KPFM, MFM, EFM, LFM, PFM, SCM, Phase contrast, C-AFM,  ECM) capability, whereas other two will add optical nanospectroscopies such as tip-enhanced electro and photo luminescence (STML/TEPL) or Raman (TERS) to the toolkit. The fifth equipment is a commercial STM/nc-AFM(UHV)@RT from SPECS using a Nanonis electronics that is working since 2011 at the ALBA installations. This instrument has a load-lock for fast samples entry and is compatible with ALBA suitcases for transfer of samples under UHV.  

In April 2024, the two new multi-technique AFMs have been delivered. Since the new laboratory at ALBA, designed to host the whole SPM platform, these systems are temporarily installed at the ICMAB-CSIC. The ICMAB team, that includes personnel enrolled within InCAEM, has been in charge of the acquisition and coordinates the installation and commissioning of  these equipment. In particular, these multipurpose SPMs are two state-of-the-art FX40 Atomic Force Microscopes from Park Systems. The FX40 AFMs are quite new in the market, with the latest advances in optimization for automatic sensor change and laser alignment. They will permit measuring very diverse samples and materials for applications in fields as varied as biomedicine, energy, electronics, etc. Both AFMs have the same basic layout and are equipped with a series of interchangeable accessories. However, in order to cover a wider range of applications and provide a higher output, each instrument will be initially designed for a different set of measuring modes and environments. While one will operate mainly in ambient conditions, the other one will operate inside a glovebox. This last requirement is quite unique worldwide and, allowing high control of environment and humidity, opens new and challenging opportunities in the study of sensitive and unstable material. It will be thus possible to characterize not only the morphology and mechanical, electrical and magnetic properties on the surface at the nanoscale in diverse ambiances but also to follow, for example, in-situ dynamics or chemical reactions using electrochemical cells.

The benefits of the SPM Platform are being presented at the Catalan, Spanish and international scientific community at conferences since 2022. In this context, the scientific responsible of the multipurpose AFMs is co-organizing the symposium "Scanning probe microscopies: a tool to understand and fabricate materials for future electronics (DFMC-GEFES)" at the XXXIX RSEF Physics Biennial to be held in Donostia (July 15th -19th, 2024). Outstandingly, the congress has a special section devoted to research combining SPM techniques with synchrotron radiation The symposium is expected to bring together the scientific community working with both characterization techniques and show the last advances in the field.

The people involved in this SPM Platform of the InCAEM project are Rodrigo Arilla, Daniel Martín-Jiménez, Rogger Palacios, Alba Cazorla, Esther Barrena y Carmen Ocal, members of the Physical Chemistry of Surfaces and Interfaces Group (ICMAB-CSIC).


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