In-situ Correlative Electron and X-ray Optical-Environmental Cell Sample Holder for Electrochemical Imaging and Spectroscopy

Period of Performance: 02/04/2016 - 08/21/2016


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Hummingbird Precision Machine Company
2610 Willamette Dr, NE, Suite A Array
Lacey, WA 98516
Firm POC
Principal Investigator


The inability to dynamically imaging (electro)chemical processes at molecular/atomic resolutions and performing spectroscopy at the same time in changing liquid and gas environments has traditionally been a significant shortcoming of both transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and high resolution X-ray characterization. This lack of real-world environmental conditions around the sample has limited the usefulness of in-situ TEM and X-ray microscopy/spectroscopy to advancing multiple areas of science. Hummingbird Scientific has previously developed commercially viable in-situ liquid and atmospheric pressure gas electron and X-ray microscope sample holders for observations of interactions of materials in fluid environments. Having the combined ability to simultaneously optically and electrically probe chemical processes in a liquid or gas environmental inside the TEM and X-ray microscope, while imaging at high magnification, allows for multi-probe energy materials studies of, for example, photocatalytic chemical reactions that is highly desirable but presently lacking. Being able to perform correlative imaging/spectroscopy between TEM and X-ray microscopy provides complementary chemical characterization of the same processes so these measurements can be overlaid. Additional fundamental insights into these chemical processes coming from this new technique will be crucial for efficient reactions to create hydrogen gas for energy storage by splitting wafer, to study thermodynamically unfavorable reactions of synthesizing fuel by CO2 activation, or to study photovoltaic processes. This project will fully develop a new environmental cell in-situ microscopy system with integrated electrical contacts and built-in optical probe for in-situ studies of, for example, photocatalytic materials. The system can also perform correlative microscopy and spectroscopy across TEM and X-ray microscopy platforms. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project will be the availability of a chemical characterization technique that can image and perform spectroscopy on solid/liquid and solid/gas interfaces up to atomic resolutions while at the same time optically probe the material. This technique has a broad range of impact over several scientific and engineering fields, with large impact in new energy technologies, like development of new catalytic or photovoltaic materials. Catalysts are crucial in accelerating many important industrial reactions that would otherwise be extremely slow or inefficient. This proposal focuses on the development of a tool that will allow high resolution electron microscopy images of photocatalytic processes to be captured. The results will allow scientists to design more efficient catalytic materials.