Nanoscopic Views Of The Material World

December 01, 1998

A new microscopy technique being developed at the University of Oxford is for the first time allowing scientists to look at the nanoscopic elastic properties of materials -- how 'springy' each different area is. Materials scientists have for years dreamt of being able to see these properties, particularly at the joins between materials such as those found in composites, that often determine the mechanical properties of a material. This dream is now being realised by the Ultrasonic Force Microscope (UFM) being developed in Oxford.

The new technique uses two microscopy techniques, acoustic microscopy and atomic force microscopy, to give scientists a closer than ever picture of the subject. The UFM technique uses a high frequency ultrasonic vibration to shake the material being tested -- the atomic force microscope gives the nanoscale resolution while the acoustic microscope measures the 'bounce' of the material. The differences in the vibrations detected characterise the elastic properties of many different types of material -- for example, the fibres and the plastic matrix in a composite material. This technique will also detect any tiny defects or cracks that may be present in the material, as they affect the movement of the vibrations through the material.
PLEASE MENTION MATERIALS WORLD AS THE SOURCE OF THIS ITEM For further information or a full copy of the article please contact Andrew McLaughlin on tel: 44-171-451-7395; fax: 44-171-839-2289 or email:

Institute of Materials

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