This large-scale facility at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) Institute of Materials Research in Cologne enables microstructures to be mapped and analysed down to the atomic level. The results obtained assist with investigations into the processes and mechanisms that are relevant to the production and properties of high-performance materials, as well as the damage suffered by them.
Among the wide range of microscopy techniques that exist, DLR’s analytical transmission electron microscopy (TEM) system – which irradiates samples with strongly accelerated electrons – is notable for its superb spatial resolution and versatility.
Analytical TEM is the only process that enables complete microstructural characterisation down to the nanometre scale. Modern materials with increasingly fine structures can thus be comprehensively described in terms of their topology, crystal structure and composition.
For instance, TEM makes it possible to investigate the lattice structure of individual nanoparticles as well as to map and analyse structural defects in metals and ceramics. The technique can also characterise the structure and composition of extremely fine alloy precipitates and identify the chemical composition of grain boundaries. These data are vital to understanding, describing and modelling the behaviour of modern materials.
Information obtained in this way can help detail the relationships between the internal structure and external properties of materials, which in turn provides the basis for developing optimised materials characterised by adapted micro and nanostructures. TEM has also proven successful for examining the causes of failures and material defects.