New X-ray machine unveils the ’hidden layers’ of materials

On the 21 of June, the Nanolab of the University of Twente opened a new state-of-the-art research facility. The opening represents a significant advancement in the university’s capabilities to pioneer cutting-edge research in photoelectron characterization and advanced materials synthesis. One of its machines - the operando HAXPES - is made possible through a 2.2 million euro grant from the NWO-large programme of the Dutch Research Council.

The operando HAXPES machine (HArd X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy) is the first of its kind worldwide. This allows researchers of the MESA+ Institute of the University of Twente to probe inside materials, at the interface of two different layers while the materials are active. This can be used in the development of new types of batteries and catalysts for green hydrogen production.

High-energy X-rays

HAXPES machines use high-energy X-rays to probe samples, allowing for the examination of deep core levels, buried interfaces, and bulk properties of materials. The machine lets researchers study materials at a much deeper level than conventional X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS). This is possible because it has higher kinetic energies than conventional XPS, which uses lower-energy X-rays. The new HAXPES at MESA+ also enables new -operandomeasurements. This means gases and liquids can be present, which is impossible in regular XPS, which requires an ultra-high vacuum. Therefore, UT researchers can now investigate energy materials while chemical reactions are happening.

Pulsed Laser Deposition

Besides the HAXPES machine, the new state-of-the-art research facility is equipped with a Pulsed Laser Deposition (PLD) machine. With PLD, researchers can synthesis high-quality thin films and nanostructures, vital for applications in energy, information technology, and basic materials science. Key features include direct sample heating with a CO2 laser, which allows ultra-high temperatures.

During the launch on the 21 of June, the MESA+ Institute of the University of Twente hosted lectures, pitch presentations, an interactive science and technology marketplace and lab tours of the Nanolab. For questions on the availability of the new research infrastructure for Dutch scientists, please contact Dr Yibin Bu.

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