State of Illinois Receives $403,900 NSF Grant for State-of-the-Art Electron Microscope – News

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Illinois State University has received a $403,900 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to purchase a state-of-the-art electron microscope that will facilitate research and teaching on campus and across the region.

Dr Mahua Biswas

“This is an incredible resource for ISU and neighboring institutions in central Illinois,” said the grant’s principal investigator, Assistant Professor of Physics Mahua Biswas. “It will move our already cutting-edge research to different levels and open up avenues and hands-on experience for students.”

image of a gold nanoparticle
An image of a gold nanoparticle from the research of Dr. Mahua Biswas, taken with an electron microscope.

Known as a Field Emission Scanning Electron Microscope (FESEM), the instrument can take images of nanoscale objects of various types, allowing users to detect intimate details and properties. Putting the tiny nature of nanoscale objects into perspective: if a particle were the size of planet Earth, a nanoparticle would be a soccer ball on the planet.

“This grant would change the long-term future of on-campus research across all departments,” said Biswas, whose lab is creating inorganic nanostructures that could be used for emerging nanomaterial-based devices like solar cells. , LEDs and high-speed memory chips. . The other co-principal investigators on the grant are Assistant Professor of Physics Uttam Manna, Associate Professor of Geology Tenley Banik, Professor of Chemistry Jun-Hyun Kim and Assistant Professor of Microbiology Jan Dahl.

portrait of Dr. Jan-Ulrik Dahl
Dr. Jan-Ulrik Dahl

Research opportunities span all fields for students and faculty members. “FESEM allows people to ask questions in physics, chemistry, biology, etc.,” Dahl said. “It will expand interdisciplinary work on campus.” More than 20 faculty members from the Department of Physics; the Department of Chemistry; the School of Biological Sciences; the Department of Geography, Geology and Environment; the Department of Technology; and university galleries have shown interest in using FESEM.

portrait of Uttam Manna
Dr Uttam Manna

“The new microscope will be an integral part of our experimental research in nano-photonics at the Department of Physics,” Manna said. “With the new microscope, we will be able to perform correlated optical and scanning electron microscopy with nanometer resolution.”

photo of Dr. Tenley Banik
Dr Tenley Banik

In years past, faculty members would drive nearly an hour to access an electron microscope and analyze samples collected by students. Once online, the Illinois State FESEM will provide students with faster results and more agency on their work. “After years of having to go off campus to collect data, I look forward to students taking more ownership of their research projects by teaching them how to collect and analyze data on campus,” said Banik, whose Students will use FESEM to further the study of zircon mineral crystals and the information they provide on the history of crustal growth.

head of Dr. Jun-Hyun Kim
Dr. Jun-Hyun Kim

The new instrument has specialized features. Energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy attached to FESEM will help identify elements in a material and in a nanoscale area of ​​the material. Cathodoluminescence can detect the amount of light emitted by nanomaterials and will be useful in understanding the optical properties of materials. Students will learn how these techniques are used in science for visualizing and analyzing the composition of nanoscale objects,” Kim said.

The electron microscope will also help teach beyond the walls of Illinois. Biswas is connecting with teachers at Metcalf and University High Lab Schools to expand opportunities for K-12 students. Professors from Illinois Wesleyan University, Millikin University, University of Illinois Springfield, and Bradley University have expressed interest in research and collaborative projects.

“FESEM will do more than push teaching and research to new heights, it will serve as a conduit for collaboration and put the State of Illinois at the center of the advancement of science,” said the vice-president. Associate President for Research and Graduate Studies Craig McLauchlan.

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