From the outside, Ward Beecher Hall looks like a normal academic building. Sure, it houses a planetarium, but there is more than that on the inside. Youngstown State University has the privilege of having an Electron Microscope Facility on its campus.
The YSU Electron Microscopy (EM) Facility was built in 2009 largely through a grant from the Ohio Third Frontier program received by Dr. Timothy Wagner, the Director of the EM facility, for a joint project with engineers from Fireline, Inc. The $2.1 million grant was used to redesign part of the fifth floor of Ward Beecher Hall to accommodate two state-of-the-art electron microscopes: a JEOL JEM-2100 Analytical Scanning/Transmission Electron Microscope (STEM/TEM), and a JEOL JIB-4500 Multi-Beam Scanning Electron Microscope/Focused Ion-Beam (SEM/FIB) system.
The microscopes are used to determine the chemical composition and microstructure of different materials, as these features determine the mechanical, thermal, or electrical properties a material will have. Electron microscopy is a fundamental tool used by engineers and scientists in the development of new materials. The TEM in particular is a very powerful and complicated instrument. It can offer a broad range of characterization techniques with very high spatial and analytical resolution, coupled with a completely quantitative understanding of the various techniques.
One of the biggest challenges in using a TEM is the preparation of appropriate samples. The observed area of samples for the JEOL 2100 need to be less than 10-7mm thick and fit on a 3mm diameter TEM Grid. The JEOL JIB-4500 can prepare samples for the TEM from larger samples using the focused ion beam in a process called nanomanufacturing. Affiliated sample preparation laboratories located in Ward Beecher and Moser Hall contain a variety of equipment for complete sample preparation using traditional techniques.
Another major challenge for the Electron Microscope Facility is the training the JEOL 2100 requires. Currently, a small number of graduate students are eligible to use the transmission electron microscope. Undergraduates can use the JIB 4500 SEM/FIB microscope, but they need more experience and training to use the JEOL 2100, especially because it uses four computers simultaneously. Students interested in learning to operate the EM instruments are highly encouraged to first learn about electron microscopy methods and crystal structure of solid materials through formal courses offered at YSU.
In the near future, the EM facility will be expanded by the addition of two new SEMs to be set up on the first floor of Moser Hall. One of the new instruments is a high resolution field emission SEM with electron diffraction capability, and the other is a variable pressure instrument useful in the study of biological samples. These microscopes compliment the existing equipment, and were funded with the help of two grants from the National Science Foundation and the Ohio Board of Regents. The grants were both received by Dr. Virgil Solomon, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, who is one of two new faculty members hired with expertise and research interests in EM methods. The other, Dr. Ruigang Wang, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry.
The EM Facility welcomes faculty and staff members, students and external collaborators to take the advantage of the expertise and state-of-the-art instrumentation available in our facility. Interested parties may contact, Dr. Dingqiang Li, EM Instrumentation Scientist and Facility Manager, for further information regarding user training or services ranging from sample preparation through EM data collection and analysis.