Authors: D.J. Stokes, S. Reyntjens, C. Jiao, M.F. Hayles and D.H.W. Hubert
Affilation: FEI Company, Netherlands
Pages: 45 - 48
Keywords: polymers, composites, FIB, SEM, TEM prep, 3D, cross-sections
Activity in the development of polymer-based materials, composites and devices is more intense than ever. At the same time, techniques and methods for their characterisation have become more powerful, giving new insights into the spatial relationships between heterogeneous nanostructures. A case in point is the application of focused ion beam technology (FIB), in combination with scanning electron microscopy (SEM), allowing us to generate cross-sections into bulk material and create a series of sequential images. For polymeric systems, this may require the simultaneous use of cryogenic temperatures in order to minimise any structural distortions and other possible damage, and strategies are also required to overcome problems associated with charge build-up when dealing with such electrically insulating specimens. With appropriate software, two-dimensional images can be correlated and rendered into a three-dimensional representation of the bulk. In addition, site-specific lamellar specimens can be made, for observation in the transmission electron microscope (TEM), with the advantage that FIB cutting through hard-soft interfaces poses fewer difficulties compared to traditional ultra-microtomy. We will describe and demonstrate how these new approaches can be successfully applied for the characterisation of polymer-based systems.