Aston invests in surface probes

The Surface Science Group at Aston University has purchased two surface analytical instruments for probing the outer layers of the surfaces of solids


The Surface Science Group in the School of Engineering and  Applied Science at Aston University has purchased two surface analytical instruments for probing the outer layers of the surfaces of solids.


£700,000 towards funding for the instruments came from Aston’s allocation in the Science Research Investment Fund (SRIF), providing Aston with the most advanced surface analysis instruments available.

The instruments acquired by the Surface Science Group are a Thermo Fisher ESCALAB 250 imaging X-ray Photoelectron Spectrometer (XPS) and a Thermo Fisher MICROLAB 350 imaging Auger Electron Spectrometer (AES).

Prof John Sullivan, who leads the group, said: ‘Instruments such as these have proved invaluable in the examination, characterisation and understanding of the surface properties of metals, glasses, ceramics, polymers and biological materials and in the study of processes such as adhesion, corrosion, oxidation, biological interactions and drug delivery systems.’

The ESCALAB uses a monochromatic X-ray beam to probe surfaces and gives information and images of the chemical state of atoms on that surface. The MICROLAB uses a very finely focused electron beam to probe the surface.

The instruments will be used by the Surface Science Group in its present research on nanomaterials and systems, but should also have much wider use for research within the university.


The new instruments will also be used in the work of an Aston spinout company, Midland Surface Analysis, which will serve the needs of regional, national and international industry.