Unity – Instant Chemical Imaging

Unity – Instant Chemical Imaging

Petrolab is delighted to install the UK’s first commercial detector for instant chemical imaging

Last year Oxford Instruments became the first company to develop an imaging detector that combines Backscattered Electron and X-ray imaging in a single technique – BEX. This new detector, named “Unity”, will enable Petrolab to collect visual and compositional sample analysis simultaneously in the Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM). In practice this means Petrolab can now locate potential areas of interest rapidly, a requirement that is particularly important when handling samples with low concentrations of a target element (e.g. gold in exploration samples, or arsenic in mine waste) or where forensic investigation of a problem (e.g. internal sulphate attack) requires searching a large area for a potentially incipient expression of the problem. The new process offers a significantly quicker turnaround on elemental and area of interest location than traditional mapping, which acquires black-and-white electron images based on the backscattered electron signals, with subsequent X-ray analysis used to determine chemical composition. With the Unity detector and innovative BEX technique, BSE and X-ray signals are captured simultaneously, allowing users to instantly observe the chemistry of samples in full-colour, high-resolution images.

In terms of speed the Unity detector has the potential to acquire accurate, high-resolution chemical mapping of whole samples in just minutes, allowing Petrolab to quickly identify features and regions that warrant further investigation. For targeted analysis that relies on locating specific areas of interest this has the potential to boost microscope productivity by orders of magnitude. As Dr Haithem Mansour, the product manager at Oxford Instruments, said at the product launch: “Our Unity detector and BEX technique are truly ground-breaking. We’re not only making complex sample analysis quicker and easier, but we’re also helping ensure the process is more robust and accurate, and giving users more time to focus on specific areas of their sample that demand their attention. Unparalleled in the market today, the powerful combination of hardware and software within the Unity detector brings new levels of certainty, reliability, and pace to the scientific community, accelerating the journey to scientific discovery.”

Over the next few weeks we’ll be putting it through its paces and testing it capacity to the full.

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