This Major Research Instrumentation award supports Vanderbilt University with the acquisition and commissioning of an FEI Helios NanoLab G3 CX dual beam focused ion beam (FIB) system for multidisciplinary research, education, and outreach in nanoscale science and engineering. The FEI Helios Nanolab G3 CX dual electron and ion beam system provides such capability for a group of researchers across Middle Tennessee, including those at Vanderbilt, FISK, and Austin Peay State Universities. The research projects address problems of technological importance such as nanowires for high-efficiency direct thermal to electrical energy conversion, creating novel man-made materials for manipulating light, for better solar cell design, and characterizing complex artificial vascular systems. Importantly, when integrated with the existing scanning transmission electron microscopy system at Vanderbilt, the acquisition of the NanoLab G3 CX system will help to establish an atomic-resolution microscopy infrastructure that is urgently needed in Middle Tennessee. The scientific research is tightly integrated with educational efforts, including hands-on training of graduate students. In addition leveraging various outreach programs at Vanderbilt, the impact of this project will be extended to high school students through demonstration of fabrication and manipulation of unique nanostructures. Moreover, the close collaboration between Vanderbilt and FISK Universities, a historically black university, will facilitate participation of underrepresented groups.
This powerful instrument will enable fabrication of nanoscale features with high precision, preparation of site-specific TEM samples, and three-dimensional (3D) nanoscale imaging. These new capabilities will lead to research activities addressing a broad range of nanoscience and nanoengineering challenges: from high performance thermoelectric nanowires to 3D all-dielectric metamaterials, from nanocomposite photovoltaic materials to complex 3D micro/nanofluidic networks. As an enabling tool, the dual beam FIB system will also open new opportunities and catalyze new collaborations among nanoscience researchers at Vanderbilt and across the Middle Tennessee. Together with the recently installed FEI Tecnai Osiris S/TEM, this project will establish the much-needed research infrastructure for high resolution microscopy in Middle Tennessee, which will produce significant impacts on many researchers at Vanderbilt and six nearby universities