Studies of dielectric oxides as a function of field and temperature using scanning transmission electron microscopy

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: School of Physics and Astronomy


Developing high temperature dielectric materials is important for a range of industrial areas, as this would enable electronic controls to be placed closer to the warm zone of a device such as an engine and therefore improve the operation. This project is therefore of benefit to a range of areas and especially as concerns energy-efficient transportation, and thus touching on key EPSRC and national priorities related to Energy. The specific aim of this project is to develop microscopy techniques for the analysis of the structure and local polarisation of such materials in-situ, under both elevated temperature and electrical bias. It is being performed in parallel to the EPSRC-funded project, EP/P013945/1, "Analysis of Polar Structure in High Temperature Relaxor Dielectrics: Framework for Materials Discovery". Materials are mainly being provided through this project from the group of Dr Steven J Milne at the University of Leeds, where this new class of high temperature dielectrics has been developed. The methods will combine a number of new developments including combined heating and biasing of transmission electron microscope specimens on a MEMS chip via a collaboration with DENS solutions BV, and pixelated detection of scattered and diffracted electrons in scanning transmission electron microscopy using recently developed detectors. This latter area was extensively developed at Glasgow through the project "Fast Pixel Detectors: a paradigm shift in STEM imaging" (EP/M009963/1), and this work also represents a continuation of that work and its application to a specific problem in the applied materials science of functional oxides.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509668/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2021
1990429 Studentship EP/N509668/1 02/10/2017 31/03/2021 Thomas Alexander Macgregor
Description We have developed a method for producing specimen to new investigate the properties of new ceramic materials using electron microscopy. Specimen prepared via this method have been exposed to a range of temperature without showing evidence of permanent damage. We have also applied small electrical across the length of the sample and observed similar stability.
Exploitation Route Through measuring the specimens at a range of different temperatures via electron microscope imaging it is possible to track the movement of specific atomic columns. Additional measurements with the wide range of detectors available in electron microscope will also allow the effect of applying electric fields across a specimen to be measured.

The structure-property relationships observed using this imaging and spectroscopy techniques can be applied to the development of new electronic systems capable of operating at much higher temperatures than those used in the current generation of devices. New high temperature capable electronics have application in the mining, aerospace and automotive industries.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Electronics,Energy

Description Outreach Event (Pint of Science) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Presented my research to the general public, covering my research and a brief summary of the principles of electron microscopy. The talk was attended by around 40 people and was followed by a question and answer session where audience members asked for more experimental detials and expressed an interested in studying physics at university level and possibly moving on to carry out their own research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description Poster Presentation at a National Conference(MMC Manchester 2019) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presented a poster regarding the preparation route used to prepare the samples in my research. This poster attracted attention from several delegates and was recognised with special mention at the conclusion of the conference and an invitation to write a paper in the trade journal Microscopy and Analysis.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019