Acquisition of a field emission scanning electron microscope at Denison University Geosciences Department

Denison University's Geosciences Department will acquire a field emission scanning electron microscope (SEM) to measure chemical composition and structure of many materials. The instrument will enhance faculty research, carried out with talented undergraduate students at Denison. The instrument will support research in many areas including analysis of magmatic processes to improve understanding of volcanic history and development of new electronic materials and electrodes that could lead to sustainable technologies and efficient energy sources. Access to leading-edge technology is critical for undergraduate institutions like Denison's small liberal arts college that is residential in nature and geographically isolated; it enables training of a competitive workforce and prepares scientific leaders. The project is led by young, diverse faculty who will use the SEM for years to come for their research, teaching, and community engagement. Denison has several programs to support underrepresented minority groups in the sciences. Experience using a state-of-the-art analytical instrument is especially important for these students who apply to graduate school or enter the workforce after their college careers. Denison's rural location will draw collaborators to this SEM facility from nearby institutions, including local schools, colleges, and regional campuses, that would not otherwise have access to such facilities.

The award is made to Denison University to support the acquisition of a field emission scanning electron microscope (FE-SEM), with integrated energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS) and cathodoluminescence (CL) for elemental analysis and characterization, along with sample preparation equipment. The state-of-the-art instrument will greatly enhance current research and open new lines of inquiry for faculty and student research, research training, and teaching across the science divisions at Denison, including the Departments of Geosciences, Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Biology. The instrument's capabilities are customized to support the needs of science faculty externally and internally funded research: (1) high resolution and high magnification characterization and imaging of a wide variety of materials; (2) qualitative, semi-quantitative and quantitative analysis for crystals and other materials, both natural and synthetic, via EDS and CL; and (3) variable pressure capability for versatility in imaging and analysis of low- to non-conducting, as well as wet, samples. Specifically, in Geosciences, the SEM-EDS/ CL will allow for quantification of the zoning of igneous crystals and composition of glass in volcanic rocks and tephra, and for the evaluation of grain coatings on soil and fluvial sediment for gamma spectroscopy and documentation of diagenetic alteration in fossil bivalve mollusks prior to isotopic analysis. In Chemistry and Biochemistry, the instrument will support multiple avenues of functional materials development, including novel laser-writable charge-transfer liquid crystals, as well as the imaging of nanostructured photoelectrodes and catalysts for physical characterization and determination of the elemental composition of mixed-metal dopants by EDS. Finally, in Biology, the instrument will allow for the examination of surface structures and anatomy of immature and mature flowers under low vacuum or processed using the critical point dryer.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Earth Sciences (EAR)
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Russell Kelz
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Denison University
United States
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