CORVALLIS, Ore. - Oregon State University has acquired a high-tech research instrument that will make its surface characterization laboratory a major resource for scientists throughout the Pacific Northwest.

The $1.6 million instrument, an ambient-pressure X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy system, or AP-XPS, is the first instrument of its kind in the United States to incorporate an ambient-pressure scanning tunneling microscope, or AP-STM, which enables imaging of surfaces with atomic resolution.

XPS uses X-rays to determine the composition, chemical states and electronic states of surfaces and interfaces from materials or thin-film structures. The technique is vital to the development of new and better materials for semiconductors, solar energy, batteries, catalysis and various environmental applications.

Combining AP-XPS and AP-STM in the same system allows researchers to measure chemical and structural changes of materials under identical conditions.

"Our system was custom designed to support a broad range of research that we're doing here at OSU," said chemical engineering professor Greg Herman, principal investigator on the grant that secured funding for the instrument. "This unique combination of capabilities will help us advance the science and technology of new materials, interfaces and devices."

Oregon State's new AP-XPS/STM, acquired in part through a major research instrumentation award from the National Science Foundation, will serve as part of a user facility within the NSF's National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure program.

In addition to supporting the work of Oregon State researchers in engineering, chemistry and physics, the AP-XPS/STM system will be made available to researchers from other universities, national laboratories and private industry, who will be able to book time on the instrument to perform their own studies.

"Our new system can operate over a broad range of temperatures and pressures, including conditions similar to those on Earth," said Herman. "This enables us to extrapolate real-world conditions much more accurately than conventional XPS, which operates under ultrahigh vacuum, similar to conditions on the moon."   

A workshop detailing the capabilities of the AP-XPS system, including a lab tour, will take place on Sept. 6 to coincide with the 2017 Symposium of the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the American Vacuum Society, being hosted at Oregon State. More information is available at

"This new system brings unique research capabilities and will play a key role in advancing the College of Engineering's strategic research areas of clean energy, advanced manufacturing and materials science," said assistant professor Líney Árnadóttir, the symposium's chair.

Matching funds for the system were provided by the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute, Oregon BEST and Oregon State University. 

Story By: 

Keith Hautala, 541-737-1478


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