Alumni fund innovative equipment for optical and electron microscopy

Buehler saw

Thanks to the generosity of the University of Sheffield Alumni, the Department has been able to fund new innovative equipment for optical and electron microscopy investigation.

The Buehler Isomet 1000 precision cutting saw will support research-led inquiry based learning of undergraduate and postgraduate students within a diverse range of materials, from next generation nuclear fuels to bioceramic implants, and provide a new capability to enable safe sample preparation of radioactive materials.

The structure of a material at the micrometer scale (a thousdanth of a milimeter) controls its strength, ductility, corrosion resistance and wear behaviour. Qualitative and quantitative analysis of material microstructure is often accomplished by optical, electron or atomic force microscopy, for which the material must be size reduced by cutting to suitable dimensions. Although a conceptually simple operation, damage or defects induced by poor cutting methods or techniques will persist through subsequent grinding and polishing operations, which can obscure the features of interest or, worse still, introduce spurious artefacts.

The new precision saw uses an advanced rotating chuck to achieve a high quality cut with reduced cutting time. This will enable the preparation of high quality specimens for microscopy investigation, relieving heavy demand on existing equipment and improving the research experience of staff and students.

The equipment has already supported a PhD project focused on developing glass-ceramic materials for radioactive wastes by Hot Isostatic Pressing. Using the Buehler Isomet 1000, PhD student Stephanie Thornber, is now able to produce cross sections of her glass-ceramic test pieces, for electron microscopy analysis, in approximately one third of the time.  This research will shortly be submitted for peer reviewed publication in the Journal of Nuclear Materials.


Stephanie Thornber

The new precision saw has allowed me to greatly increase my throughput of materials for analysis and hence rapidly optimise our glass-ceramic formulations, which will assist the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority in selection of the best available technology for treating these wastes.”

stephanie thornber / phd student with nucleus immobilisation science laboratory

Further information

The Alumni Fund helps provide talented students with access to a first-class education they would otherwise be unable to afford, whilst maintaining and further enhancing standards at the University for future generations of students. Donations to the Alumni Fund support our students' academic and personal development, and give them the opportunity to develop skills and knowledge that will serve them throughout their lives.

For further details, visit Alumni Fund.