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Sbir Phase I: Ultra Low Cost Electron Microscope


<p>This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project will develop a very low-cost, easy to use scanning electron microscope (SEM) for students and small businesses that cannot afford them today. The project achieves this goal by eliminating the costly, complex high vacuum system. In traditional SEM's, the high vacuum system prevents rapid failure of the electron emitter. Phase I will develop an innovative new electron source that has long life and high performance without the need for a high vacuum system. The proposed electron source protects the emitter from rapid oxidation and evaporation even in poor vacuum conditions. These new electron sources will be evaluated for brightness and lifetime in both high vacuum and low vacuum environments. The sources will then be evaluated in a modified SEM without the high vacuum system. Finally, a new SEM will be designed for low cost, ease of use and good performance. This SEM will have comparable performance to existing SEM's at a substantially lower cost. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project will be to bring one of the most important tools of science and technology - the electron microscope - to students and small businesses. Existing electron microscopes are large, difficult to use and expensive to buy and maintain. This project aims to produce a simple, rugged and inexpensive scanning electron microscope (SEM). The proposed SEM can be used in K-12 schools, vocational schools and small colleges as well as small businesses that cannot afford present-day SEM's. SEM's are becoming essential in manufacturing both 'low-tech' products (e.g., cosmetics, textiles and food processing) and 'high-tech' products (e.g., microelectronics, medical devices and pharmaceuticals). Access to a SEM will give small businesses an advantage for better process and quality control, enabling them to compete with larger companies that already have SEM's. Students who learn how to use a SEM will have an advantage seeking high-tech jobs. Scientists and engineers performing R&D at small companies or colleges will be have access to one of the basic tools of advanced technology, the SEM.</p>

Adler, David L
DLA Instruments
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