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Published: 29 April 2014

KTP with Torr Scientific leads to more efficient x-ray monochromator

A Knowledge Transfer Partnership between Surrey and Torr Scientific Ltd (TSL) has enabled the development of a novel ‘in-line’ x-ray monochromator for the surface analysis of materials.

The new x-ray monochromator will be employed on surface analysis instruments which are used for R&D and problem solving of surface-related issues in a wide range of industries. The novel ‘in-line’ design will be able to perform the analysis ten times as quickly, and study features that are twice as small, as existing monochromators.

X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) is a surface analytical technique which allows the chemical compositions of the top few nanometers of a material to be determined. It is used to analyse the reasons for mechanical component failure or corrosion on the surface of a product, for example, or to study the adsorption of biomolecules onto surfaces in medical diagnosis.

Having already brought to market a novel ‘diamond tipped’ x-ray anode offering 100% more power than standard x-ray anodes for XPS, Torr Scientific Ltd (TSL) wanted to develop an ‘in-line’ monochromator (which can be fitted on a single port of the spectrometer) incorporating the same technology. As well as offering improvements in power, spot size and ease of calibration, the ‘in-line’ monochromator could also be significantly less expensive than current models – potentially half the cost.

TSL approached the University of Surrey because of its renowned expertise in the use of XPS spectrometers and its long-established Surface Analysis Laboratory.  The University’s knowledge of XPS instrumentation and thin film technology, combined with access to the latest research and materials characterisation facilities, strengthened TSL’s R&D capability.

The Surrey team, headed up by Dr Mark Baker, helped TSL to undertake modelling work on the interaction of electrons with solid matter and to develop the materials solutions and manufacturing processes required to decide on the final design. Having worked with XPS instrument manufacturers around the world for many years, the team was also able to advise on potential routes to market for the new product.

As a result of the KTP, a patent for the ‘in-line’ x-ray monochromator design is being processed, while further funding has been provided by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) in the form of a SMART award for prototype development. When launched, the new in-line x-ray monochromator will initiate a new product range for TSL, enabling the company to penetrate the high-tech scientific component market and expand its business.

Dr Mark Baker said, “This KTP has been a really fascinating project. I’ve been very excited by the opportunity to apply my knowledge of thin film growth and materials characterisation techniques in working with TSL to develop this new state-of-the-art surface science product.”

David Bates, Director of Torr Scientific commented, “The KTP project has been of great benefit to Torr Scientific. The company has significantly advanced its knowledge, process and product quality, which has raised the company profile within surface science and business networks.”

The KTP Associate, David Stupple, who was trained in instrumentation usage at the University as part of the project, has subsequently embarked on a four-year Engineering Doctorate programme at Surrey.