Rethink custom microscopes with OpenStand

Posted in Microscope automationOEM and custom solutionsOpenStand

Jun 3rd 2021

Prior Scientific is renowned for motorizing commercially available microscopes to maximize the generation of high-quality imaging data from a wide variety of optical systems. As imaging instruments become more diverse and specialized towards particular applications, Prior now offers the OpenStand®, a highly versatile imaging system development platform.

Enhanced capability with reduced development time

The OpenStand® compliments Prior’s expertise in designing customized analytical instrumentation and benefits from its extensive range of existing microscopy automation products. Prior’s vast product portfolio of motorized stages, piezo devices, robotic loaders and autofocus systems integrates with the OpenStand® ‘off the shelf’ using the same software development kit. This kick-starts development of highly capable, automated instruments by eliminating the need to integrate multiple components from different suppliers, both mechanically and in software.

The versatility of the OpenStand® does not stop there, however. By working with Prior’s large and experienced research and development team, the OpenStand® can be further modified with unique components to create an instrument that meets specific requirements. This means that truly novel systems can be built from a production-ready base. Development teams no longer need to accept high costs, compromises in capability or extended routes to production to pursue their optimal system design.

Case study: Non-contact mapping of semiconductor electronic structure to morphology

Semimetrics Ltd, the UK-based semiconductor analysis company, in partnership with Durham University, used all the facets of the OpenStand® to develop their imaging system.

Automation is essential for scanning applications, as it enables repeatable and rapid acquisition of images and data compared to manual inspection. Semimetrics configured their OpenStand® with a triggerable episcopic light source, motorized three-axis movement and a motorized objective nosepiece. They were also able to exclude a transmitted light source and condenser to make the system as cost-efficient as possible. As all of these components were sourced from Prior, they could all be controlled via the same electronics package, which saved time during software development. Therefore, the OpenStand® met all the requirements for their wafer-scanning microscope, allowing them to automate their analysis methods from day one.

Building from a platform made from known, compatible components, Semimetrics also worked with Prior to develop a pair of modulated infrared laser devices to facilitate their unique semiconductor analysis method. These devices allow Dr. Iddo Amit, Assistant Professor in Durham University’s Department of Engineering, to investigate intraband transitions in semiconductors. By inducing optical excitation of charge carriers over in-band energy barriers using near and mid-infrared wavelengths and measuring the resulting photocurrent increase to evaluate concealed sample properties.

Prior’s research and development team designed the optics and fitted them into the housing of another Prior Scientific product, the Purefocus 850, which is readily compatible with the OpenStand®. The chosen wavelengths are also critical for differentiating between intraband and band-to-band transitions, necessitating a customized solution. Finally, Prior also sourced a suitable camera and casework for imaging at the long wavelengths specified by Semimetrics to complete the system. The result is a complete, unique, automated system used to map electronic structures to physical sample morphology using a non-contact, minimally invasive method. This represents a novel technique for evaluating semiconductor performance, detecting defects, and characterizing stressing processes.

The result of this design process was that Semimetrics launched from a research instrument concept to a production-ready, fully motorized solution, and Dr. Amit’s initial research can generate correlated imaging and electronic data more rapidly than would have been possible with a manual system. The flexibility of the OpenStand® also means that Semimetrics can iterate on the design in the future to enhance or refine the system’s capabilities. The design premise behind OpenStand® can accelerate collaboration between industry and academia, producing innovative research through commercially ready, customized imaging solutions.

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