ARCHIVED - Canadian companies gain access to latest microscopes at Edmonton centre

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July 12, 2011— Edmonton, Alberta

With the opening of a new Edmonton facility, Canadian companies looking to reap the benefits of nanotechnology now have access to some of the world’s best microscopy expertise and equipment, including an environmental transmission electron microscope that can capture chemical reactions at the atomic level as they happen.

The National Institute for Nanotechnology (NINT) in Edmonton officially opened the Hitachi Electron Microscopy Product Centre (HEMiC) at a ceremony on the University of Alberta campus on July 12, 2011.

HEMiC, a collaboration between NINT and Hitachi High Technologies, offers important new electron microscopy research equipment and capabilities to Canada’s industrial and academic communities. Supported by Hitachi High Technologies, the federal and Alberta governments, and the University of Alberta, the Centre will also will further support the development, evaluation and commercialization of NINT microscope innovations.

NINT Technical Officer Jian Chen with the environmental transmission electron microscope at the new Hitachi Electron Microscopy Product Centre

NINT Technical Officer Jian Chen with the environmental transmission electron microscope at the new Hitachi Electron Microscopy Product Centre

The new facility is home to three of Hitachi’s newest models, including the first installation outside Japan of a rare Hitachi environmental transmission electron (E-TEM) instrument that can image chemical reactions at the atomic level in real time. Another microscope combines an ion beam with the standard scanning electron source to image nanometre-thin cross sections of samples for specialized uses.

“This opening signifies that we’re full-on capable of delivering on the value proposition of the project,” says Rick Brommeland, NINT’s Director of Business Development and External Relations. “This positions NINT to be the pre-eminent electron microscopy facility in the country in terms of combined breadth of expertise and depth of capability.”

HEMiC has evolved in stages, with NINT running the electron microscopes in temporary labs for months, but controlled temperature and atmospheric stability in the newly opened operational spaces will ensure consistent peak performance.

Who benefits from HEMiC?

HEMiC offers industrial and academic clients contract access to researchers with a range of powerful imaging tools and techniques. It’s a type of facility normally available only to very large organizations.

The partners also benefit: Hitachi gains expertise from NINT scientists and engineers who will assist development of new Hitachi product features. The company will also refer potential electron microscope customers to HEMiC so they can gain hands-on experience with new instruments and techniques before buying. “HEMiC helps visitors who have been referred by Hitachi to get their brains around equipment and technology — either the tools themselves or techniques that can help solve problems relevant to those companies,” says Brommeland.

In return, NINT gains priority access to new tools and techniques from Hitachi, and a working relationship that ensures a solid channel to market for its new electron microscope ion and electron beam technologies.

Nanotechnology research currently covers much ground as scientists and engineers explore structures of a wide range of solids, including metal and biological and organic materials. The goal is to develop and improve miniaturized technologies that are becoming increasingly common in the marketplace — everything from more efficient solar cells and microelectronics to improved treatments for cancer.

Brommeland says that HEMiC’s nanotechnology development capabilities will give Canada’s researchers the tools to understand and ultimately improve the capabilities of a large range of materials at the atomic level, including structural materials and chemical catalysts.

“This will allow us to see and interpret the structures of materials so we can tailor new capabilities,” he says. “It’s part of a general role for NRC, to help companies understand, get comfortable with, and ultimately take up new technology.”

The HEMiC project reflects the unique model that is NINT, with both NRC and University of Alberta employees taking on lead roles and funding coming from all four NINT partners.

Related information 

Enquiries: Media relations
National Research Council of Canada

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