Inaugural KNI FAST Prize Awarded to Proposal for 3D Nanoscale Analysis

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Professor Chiara Daraio's proposed project on serial section tomography by dual beam microscopy will bring 3D nanoscale analysis capabilities to the KNI Lab.

KNI FAST Prize Awardee

February 7, 2022

We are delighted to announce that Chiara Daraio, G. Bradford Jones Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics, is the recipient of the inaugural KNI FAST Prize for her team's proposal on "Serial section tomography by dual beam microscopy for nano- and micro-structural analysis". Postdoctoral researcher Dr. Israel Kellersztein will work closely with KNI microscopist Dr. Annalena (Lena) Wolff and materials process engineer Alex Wertheim to carry out their project over the course of this year.

Advancements in additive manufacturing technologies have expanded the possibilities for developing new materials with enhanced functionality at smaller and smaller length scales. Having a detailed understanding the composition and profiles of these new materials will go a long way in ensuring their success. One such technology called serial section tomography will give researchers access to a deeper level of understanding of the 3D arrangement of their nanocomposites. SSV works by milling several 2D "slices" of a nanostructure, which are then imaged slice-by-slice to reveal inner characteristics that would otherwise be missed in traditional imaging. Slices are then processed through software programs where they are stacked and reconstructed to further evaluate their structural, medical, or electrical capabilities in 3D. Further, serial surface view (SSV) technology will be of benefit to researchers investigating any material at the nano-scale that is vacuum compatible and FIB processed.

The SSV project will involve sample preparation via the Lab's existing focused-ion beams (FIB) and scanning electron microscopes (SEM) with a new high performance CPU workstation to build and render the 3D reconstruction. As mentioned in the proposal, "researchers will be able to understand and show the 3D structure of devices fabricated at KNI, dispersion of nanoparticles in composites or drug delivery systems, crack propagation of brittle materials, electrode structures, and uniformity of layer depositions, contributing to the fields of photonics, electronics, medical and materials engineering."

SSV process
Fig. 1 Schematic representation of the proposed process. a) Processing of nanocomposites via two-photon lithography; b) Serial surface tomography by dual-beam; c) 3D reconstruction.

Over the next several months, the FAST team will design a custom nanocomposite photoresist and nanofiber reinforcing material to secure samples for SSV processing; acquire and setup the CPU workstation; and test and optimize parameters on the 3D reconstruction software platforms. Once the technique and procedure are fully signed off, all KNI lab users will be able to request SSV training for use in their individual projects.

About the FAST Prize

The Kavli Nanoscience Institute established the FAST Prize to support small-scale nanoscience-based projects that will drive new capabilities in the KNI Laboratory. This program nurtures collaboration between Caltech faculty and researchers with KNI technical staff, combining expertise from both perspectives to create new, tangible advancements for current and future members of our multi-user facility.

Submissions for the inaugural FAST Prize were received in December and a formal review committee evaluated each proposal. The award comes with up to $15,000 to support KNI Lab usage fees and a $10,000 unburdened gift to directly facilitate the project’s ability to expand techniques within the KNI Lab. Learn more about the KNI FAST Prize here.