MRI: Acquisition of a state-of-the-art atom probe for three-dimensional imaging and analysis of materials

  • Bellon, Pascal P. (PI)
  • Zuo, Jian-min J.-M. (CoPI)
  • Maass, Robert R. (CoPI)
  • Krogstad, Jessica (CoPI)
  • Allain, Jean Paul (CoPI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


This award from the Major Research Instrumentation program supports the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (UIUC) with the acquisition of a atom probe instrument for three-dimensional imaging and analysis of materials.The controlled organization of materials at the nanoscale can offer dramatic improvements in their structural and functional performances, as illustrated by high strength structural materials for automotive and aerospace applications, alloys with nanodispersoids for high irradiation resistance for nuclear power applications, opto-electronic nano-devices for high efficiency energy conversion and fast communication, or advanced ceramics for sensing and coatings for harsh and high temperature environments. A critical need for further optimizing these materials and developing new ones is the chemical characterization in three dimensions of their underlying nanostructures. Recent technical breakthroughs in atom probe tomography allow the mapping of chemical elements in these nanostructures with unprecedented spatial resolution and detection efficiency. This instrument will be part of the User Facility at the Materials Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois, ensuring that it will be broadly accessible to the materials community for research and education. The research enabled by this instrument will provide critical knowledge for the development of materials with broad societal impacts in the areas of energy, medicine, information technology, transportation, and the environment.

This Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) grant supports the acquisition of an atom probe for three-dimensional imaging and analysis of materials. This state-of-the-art local-electrode atom probe offers unprecedented detection efficiency and versatility. This instrument will be integrated in the User Facility of the Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory (MRL) at the University of Illinois, and broadly accessible to internal and external users from academic and non-academic organizations. This instrument will be used to unravel the chemistry of nanostructures in three dimensions with sub-nanometer resolution in a wide variety of fields, including (1) advanced nanostructured nuclear materials with increased radiation tolerance; (2) ion segregation and transport at grain boundaries and other defects in oxides and ceramics; (3) Si and III-V semi-conductor heterostructures, nanowires and quantum dots. It will also allow elucidating the response of complex materials systems, such as (4) the coupling between chemistry and local plasticity in bulk metallic glasses, high-entropy alloys with shape-memory function, and nanotwinned metals; (5) the self-organization of bulk alloys under external forcing such as irradiation and severe plastic deformation, resulting in self-adapting functionalities; (6) the evolution of surfaces subjected to harsh environments, including plasma-facing materials, battery electrodes, and bio-actives interfaces nanostructured for osseointegration and mineralization; and (7) the development of advanced superalloys and coatings. The data acquired by users will be archived in a broadly accessible, but secured data repository for the benefits of the development and validation of atomistic models. In addition to fulfilling critical research needs, the APT will support the University core missions of education by providing user training, education, and outreach opportunities. Furthermore, the University of Illinois and the vendor will establish a strategic partnership, with the MRL hosting APT training classes every year, further expanding the pool of users trained to used state-of-the-art atom probe tomography.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date10/1/189/30/21


  • National Science Foundation: $1,563,107.00


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