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New UI-Based Tool Can Manipulate the Microscopic World

June 23, 2017

University of Idaho researchers will soon have the ability to manipulate material at the nanoscale with a new instrument funded by a grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust.

The FEI Scios DualBeam FIB SEM system combines a powerful scanning electron microscope (SEM) with a high-energy focused ion beam (FIB), which researchers can use to add or remove material at the molecular level. It is the first instrument of its kind in the area.

The FIB SEM’s primary use is for electrical engineering research that requires fabricating or repairing tiny integrated circuits, but it also can be used to help researchers in other fields. For example, a geologist could use it to prepare an extremely thin slice of mineral, or a biologist could use the ion beam to slice open a cell to examine its interior.

Dr. Moses Lee from the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust said, “The Trust is pleased to support the University of Idaho with the purchase of a focused ion beam scanning electron microscope. Our founder, Jack Murdock, had a strong belief in the power of education, science and technology to solve many of our world’s issues and challenges. The availability of the microscope to the University of Idaho and other institutions throughout the Pacific Northwest will facilitate that work.”

Researchers previously had to travel to Idaho Falls or Richland, Washington, to access similar tools. Now, the FIB SEM system is centrally located on the first floor of UI’s new Integrated Research and Innovation Center (IRIC).

“The IRIC microscopy room was designed specifically to house an instrument like this,” said Tom Williams, director of UI’s Electron Microscopy Center and a clinical associate professor of geological sciences. “This will have enough versatility of use that it will be helpful to researchers from many institutions.”

Williams will spend the summer learning the ins and outs of the FIB SEM, as well as training three graduate students to use it. In the fall, he will set up workshops to demonstrate the instrument’s capabilities. The Murdock grant included funds to encourage researchers to receive training and start using the system.

“Our researchers are eager to start utilizing this system and finding innovative ways to leverage its innovative capabilities to advance our research,” said Janet Nelson, UI vice president for research and economic development. “We are grateful to the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust for their continued investment, not only in our UI researchers, but also in growing the research capabilities of our entire region.”

About Murdock Charitable Trust
The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust’s mission is to enrich the quality of life in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington by providing grants to organizations that strengthen the region’s educational, spiritual and cultural base in creative and sustainable ways. The Trust was created in 1975 through the will of Melvin J. “Jack” Murdock, co-founder of Tektronix, Inc.  

Media Contact:
Tom Williams
UI Electron Microscopy Center

Tara Roberts
University Communications and Marketing

About the University of Idaho

The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, a research and Extension center in Twin Falls, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to more than 11,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky Conference and Sun Belt Conference. Learn more: