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Materials Microscope from Zeiss

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Carl Zeiss launches Axioskop 2 MAT, a routine microscope boasting improved optical capabilities to meet the increasing demands made by materials scientists.

The microscope features two unique Carl Zeiss technologies, C-DIC and C-TIC, designed to speed up sample throughput and ease operator workload. C-DIC and C-TIC use circular polarised light to allow samples to be seen in their entirety, regardless of their orientation and without rotating the sample stage.

This reduces the time required to examine any sample and aids the introduction of automated analysis methods. "The combination of the Axioskop 2 MAT and these new circular polarised light techniques offers precise measurement, fast evaluation, easier specimen preparation, rapid analysis of large-area specimens, and simplicity of operation," says Aubrey Lambert, marketing manager at Carl Zeiss UK.

"It is also a significant step towards automated routine inspection and analysis of materials samples." The Axioskop 2 MAT is available in manual or motorised versions for reflected and transmitted light. On the motorised version, the reflector turret, z-drive, brightness control and switching mirror are all motorised and the nosepiece is coded.

This allows the company's AxioVision software to completely control the microscope's functions and automate digital image acquisition and analysis. Carl Zeiss claims to have improved the reflected-light beam path in the new instrument and precise imaging of materials specimens is enhanced with the inclusion of a light trap that eliminates stray light in reflected light applications.

It is also compatible with the high-performance EC-Epiplan-Neofluar materials objectives and a colour temperature setting for 3200 Kelvin is available at the touch of a button to ensure colour fidelity when capturing digital images. Total Interference Contrast (TIC) precisely measures surface topography, roughness and layer thickness to an accuracy of 20 nm and a depth of 5 µm.

It is particularly beneficial in the development and production of thin films and coatings, while measurement of step heights and layer thickness is also widely used in electronics, MEMS, glass and ceramics, and the automotive industry. 

The use of circular polarised light also makes C-TIC insensitive to vibration, so additional absorption units are not required. C-DIC (Circular Differential Interference Contrast) is the first optical polarisation technique that operates with circular polarised light. Available on the Axiovert 2 MAT and Axioscop 200 MAT microscopes, C-DIC brings immediate workflow benefits and efficiencies.

For example, if two structures run at right angles to each other, only one will be visualised at any time with linear DIC. Viewing the second structure requires the stage to be rotated through 90o. With C-DIC, both structures are simultaneously visualised, speeding up throughput and aiding automation.