How ‘impossible’ data all adds up
New techniques are enabling scientists to understand surfaces and extract data from engineering experiments under ‘impossible’ conditions
Scientists at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) are using physics modelling to extract valuable information from experiments that cannot be undertaken in real-world conditions – and then applying advanced statistics to dig out meaningful data from the results.
NPL’s Joanna Lee is using a technique called Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (Sims), in conjunction with the modelling and statistical analysis, to analyse coatings and thin films. This could well prove important in fields as diverse as electronics and medicine.
Sims works by breaking molecules – such as those in a surface coating – into smaller fragments. The problem is then to make sense of it and work out which original molecules were on the surface before they were blasted to pieces.
NPL has developed a refined technique called G-Sims, which uses manganese or bismuth ions to cause different degrees of fragmentation.
More on this technology appears in the May issue of Eureka.
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