Advanced Electron Microscopy Center Tackles Real World Challenges in Materials Science

Located at UConn Tech Park, the InToEM center will provide unprecedented insight and will open up a world of research opportunities for climate change and green/clean technologies.

UConn Tech Park exterior. (Magda Biernat)

UConn Tech Park (Magda Biernat)

With in-situ and/or operando transmission electron microscopy (TEM), scientists can study material reactions in the here and now. A new center at the UConn Tech Park aims to use this specialized technology to find innovative solutions for some of the most complex challenges facing society today.

The IN-siTu/Operando Electron Microscopy (InToEM) center represents a partnership between the UConn Tech Park and DENSsolutions, a firm based in the Netherlands that develops in-situ TEM technologies.

Yuanyuan Zhu, director of the InToEM center, works with the DENSsolution Climate system at UConn Tech Park. (UConn Photo)
Yuanyuan Zhu, director of the InToEM center, works with the DENSsolutions Climate system at UConn Tech Park. (UConn Photo)

InToEM will be the home of scientists and engineers with complementary expertise working at the frontier of materials dynamics.

At the heart of the research center is the highly specialized Climate MEMS-based Nano-Reactor from DENSsolutions. The system is able to probe high-temperature gas-solid reactions with high spatial resolution under ambient pressure, in gaseous environments controlled by sophisticated dynamic gas mixing. The UConn scientists working in the center can monitor dynamic changes in local site-specific structural information of nanomaterials in real-time under realistic reaction conditions. This means they are able to gather more applicable information about what exactly is happening to the materials being tested, and can also conduct concurrent mass-spectrometry, calorimetry and chemical analysis while the material is in operation.

“Being able to study the behavior of materials in their native environment has been microscopists’ dream since the birth of TEM,” says Yuanyuan Zhu​, director of the InToEM center. “I’m very excited about this collaboration, which will provide an optimal scientific ‘sandbox’ to explore microscopy as it should be.” Zhu is also assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and ​Institute of Materials Science​ at UConn.

These new capabilities will provide unprecedented insight into the correlation between materials dynamics and temporal performance at the fundamental atomic-scale. The research team and partners at DENSsolutions have high hopes that the new center will open up a world of research opportunities in heterogeneous catalysis, fuel cells, corrosion, and materials growth and transformation.

“These new techniques connect microscopy more meaningfully with chemistry, materials research and nanotechnology,” says Ben Bormans, CEO of DENSsolutions. “We are all very, very excited about being a partner in the InToEM center and with the world-class researchers at UConn.”

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