Australian scientists from CSIRO have launched a second-generation probe described as the biggest advance in microscopy since the electron microscope.
The now patented CSIRO EvolutionProbe follows the development of the prototype Scanning Kelvin Probe launched a year ago by CSIRO.
The new-generation version has been named the CSIRO EvolutionProbe (CEP) because of the new features it offers for real-time study of corrosion and other surface chemistry phenomena.
The developer of the CEP, Aaron Neufeld of CSIRO Sustainable Materials Engineering said, ‘The CEP is the only analytical instrument that can provide information about electrochemical reactions and surface changes on coated metal products affected by the thin films of moisture typically deposited as dew or rain’.
According to the CSIRO, the CEP can capture a picture of these electrochemical reactions within minutes compared to other instruments, which take hours and then only offer data from a small section of material.
The CEP can be used for a range of applications from accelerated testing, to quality control and quality assurance, and product-process refinement and development.
In particular the CEP reportedly offers easy quantification of the previously complex measurement of tribocharging effects.
The generation of static electricity by friction or tribocharging, the magnitude of the charge and how fast the static charge decays, can all be measured quickly by the CEP.
‘This means we can tailor surface chemistry to minimise the effect of static charging,’ said Neufeld. ‘In effect, the CEP is a key to commercialising new technologies such as new composite materials where tribocharging may create product, production or packaging difficulties. It has enabled us to begin to unravel the riddle of unwanted tribocharging effects on polymer films.’
Neufeld added, ‘Just as importantly, it can help to identify a replacement solution for the many current environmentally unfriendly antistatic compounds containing fluorines’.
The CEP is said to fall into the generic instrument category of scanning probe microscopes, the two most common commercially available instruments being Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) and Scanning Tunnelling Microscopy (STM). The EvolutionProbe is a technique complementary to these existing techniques.
The current worldwide market for such instruments is estimated at about US$250 million. CSIRO is now actively seeking partners for the commercial development of the EvolutionProbe.