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Living legend shares insights on microanalysis trends

September 27, 2018
Source: ASM International

Nestor J. Zaluzec, a senior scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory, has been named an inaugural Fellow in the Legends Class of the Microanalysis Society, in recognition of his contributions to advanced microscopy and microanalysis.

Over the course of his ongoing career at Argonne, Zaluzec has pioneered advanced techniques and instrumentation for state-of-the-art electron microscopy, which uses beams of electrons to see very small samples. The Microanalysis Society recognized Zaluzec for outstanding leadership and sustained contributions to advanced analytical electron microscopy, including development of scanning confocal electron microscopy, as well as his work on combining spectrometry with electron diffraction.

The advances in microscopy or microanalysis, or the study of samples that cannot be seen by the human eye, have evolved from simply studying the chemical makeup of a microscopic sample to seeking an understanding of how the material behaves.

“In order to understand and actually move forward in today’s technologically demanding society, what we have to do is more than simply look at a material’s structure; rather, we have to fully characterize it,” Zaluzec said. “We have to understand the relationship between morphology, crystallography, and elemental, chemical and electronic structure, and we have to integrate this information so that we can unravel the synergistic relationship of a material’s macroscopic properties to its atomic structure.”

Zaluzec described how microanalysis has evolved over the course of the past 50 years. “In the 1960s, we were working on the basics, operating at the micrometer scale—we were merely dreaming of the ability to achieve single-atom resolution,” he said. “Now, we have the capability to not only resolve but also analyze materials at the picometer scale, and the view we have today at the atomic scale is fascinating.”

Argonne’s work in microanalysis has advanced because the laboratory consistently pushes the frontiers of science by incorporating different approaches that employ a wide array of probes to study and explore materials, Zaluzec said.

The future of microanalysis, according to Zaluzec, lies in what scientists refer to as “multimodal and multidimensional” techniques, as well as new and novel detectors—which can be combined in different ways to study a material. At Argonne, combining x-ray microscopy, optical microscopy, and electron microscopy provides one example of this approach. Through this combination, Argonne enables scientists to capture a comprehensive range of information about the constituent phases and individual atoms within a sample.

“One analytical technique or one analytical instrument is no longer enough to answer all of today’s questions,” Zaluzec said. “We need correlative approaches that integrate and amalgamate our experimental studies in order to unravel and comprehend the complex interactions found in modern systems.”

The evolution of microanalysis at Argonne has also begun to expand into even more challenging areas, involving what scientists call “soft matter.” This realm includes organic/inorganic heterostructures, membranes and polymers; hybrid/smart nanostructures; as well as a host of biologically inspired systems—from single macromolecules to inter/intracellular processes. This work coincides with Argonne’s continuing work in conventional “hard matter,” like metals, ceramics, and semiconductors.

“What we need is a way to figure out how all these materials, their defects and their interfaces interact; we truly want to understand material relationships,” Zaluzec said.


Image – Argonne senior scientist, Nestor J. Zaluzec. Courtesy of Argonne National Laboratory.


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Subject Classifications

Materials Testing and Evaluation | Materials Characterization

Materials Testing and Evaluation | Metallography and Microstructures

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