Important progress and breakthrough developments in materials science and life sciences are hampered more and more often by the absence of adequate analysis techniques. In particular, there is a lack of any analytical tool allowing the mapping of samples with both excellent resolution and high-sensitivity chemical information.
Although the different analysis techniques routinely used (e.g. transmission electron microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, scanning probe microscopy, secondary ion mass spectrometry) are constantly improving in terms of performance, their intrinsic limitations (no or limited chemical information for electron and scanning probe microscopies, limited lateral resolution for secondary ion mass spectrometry) remain. As all individual techniques have their advantages and limitations, the challenge consists of combining the techniques so that the intrinsic limits of one can be compensated by the strengths of another.
Therefore, several of our projects aim to develop instruments that combine different analytical techniques in-situ to allow the correlation of structural information at a 1 nm level with high sensitivity chemical information. Such instruments will enable us to look at smaller size applications, which are currently out of our range, and will lead to new applications. Combining the information channels of the different techniques into one unique and novel analytical and structural tool will make new multi-channel nano-analytical experiments possible, thus opening the pathway to qualitatively new types of information on the nanomaterials investigated.