Microscopy + Spectroscopy: Pittcon® 2013 Celebrates the Power of Two

The year 2013 celebrates a new benchmark for imaging at Pittcon®. Historically, Pittcon has not been considered an imaging meeting, despite the fact that a review of Pittcon 2012 statistics revealed as many microscopists as FTIR or UV/VIS spectroscopists (http://pittcon.org/exhibitor/exhibiting-at-pittcon/#stat). This year, more than 50 exhibitors report some sort of microscopy in their offerings and, as amply illustrated in this article, their solutions are wonderfully broad-reaching and extensive.

Waters Symposium showcases chemical imaging pioneers

What better hallmark of the current importance of imaging at Pittcon than the prestigious James L. Waters Annual Symposium? The focal topic this year: the commercialization of chemical imaging. According to the Pittcon announcement, “Chemical imaging has enabled advancements in the fields of pharmaceutical analysis, polymer characterization and identification of defects in semiconductor materials. It continues to be a key tool in these and in many additional medical and homeland security applications.”

This annual symposium, established in 1989 by James L. Waters, Founder of Waters Associates, Inc. (Milford, MA; www.waters.com) and President of Waters Business Systems, Inc. (Framingham, MA), recognizes the development and application of instrumentation by preserving the history of the important contributions, as well as the cooperation between inventors, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and marketing organizations.

This year, the symposium is on Monday, March 18, in Room 126B of the Philadelphia Convention Center, and features four renowned pioneers discussing the current and future state of this technique. Dr. E. Neil Lewis (Malvern Instruments, Worcestershire, U.K.; www.malvern.com) will challenge the audience with “Chemical Imaging: Those Are Pretty Pictures But Who Gives A Darn!” while Patrick J. Treado (ChemImage, Pittsburgh, PA; www.chemimage.com) will trace “Birth to Young Adulthood of the Molecular Chemical Image.” Richard Crocombe (Bio-Rad, Hercules, CA; www.bio-rad.com) will cover “The Development of Infrared Spectroscopic Imaging and Focal Plane Array Detectors: Are FPAs Enabling Technology, Achilles’ Heel, or Both?” and Dr. Joachim Koenen (WITec, Ulm, Germany; www.witec.de) will illuminate “Confocal Raman Microscopy: From Single Spectra Acquisition to Routine 3D Raman Imaging.”

In light microscopy, veterans rub shoulders with newbies

Veteran Pittcon exhibitor Motic (Richmond, British Columbia; www.motic.com) has been a long-time leader in camera–microscopy integration. Motic’s offerings for Pittcon 2013 take this integration to the next level. Especially sensitive to the advancement of the digital age in our personal lives from cell phones to tablets, Motic will debut two next-generation technologies that free the viewer from traditional wired connections. The first is the wireless Moticam X camera series, a Moticam that can be connected to any microscope and uses Motic Images Plus 2.0 software to connect to a laptop via WiFi. Users can also download iOS and Android Apps FOC to view streaming images, acquire images, and measure. The second is the Motic HUB, a software application enabling any Moticam or digital microscope running Motic software on iOS or Android tablets to connect through WiFi. Using standard, free downloadable viewers for either Android or iOS platforms, the Motic Hub enables six or more viewers to share images, in real time, for either education or consultation.

OPTIKA Microscopes (Bergamo, Italy; www.optikamicroscopes.com) is a first-time exhibitor in 2013. To celebrate, the company is introducing two new models specifically for laboratories, hospitals, and universities: the B-800, a standard for brightfield and phase contrast techniques, and the B-1000, a top-of-the-line “modular” microscope that enables the end user to create a personalized instrument by selecting types of heads, nosepieces, objective lenses, stages, condensers, etc., according to his/her needs. The B-1000 model also features an exclusive OPTIKA X-LED illumination system, which stores the necessary information in memory to maintain light intensity according to the application. For example, it will automatically increase the illumination when switching from conventional brightfield to the more light-restricted phase contrast.

No more eyepieces?

It’s been the buzz in the industry for some years now: Will eyepieces stay or go? Motic has offered this option on laboratory stands for many years. Olympus IMS Industrial Solutions (Center Valley, PA; www.olympus-ims.com) has taken the leap at the research level with the innovative DSX Series Opto-digital microscopes for industrial applications, combining the best of advanced optics with the ease-of-use of tablet computers. Innovations to look for when visiting the booth include a touchscreen interface; the new MIX observation, which combines brightfield and darkfield techniques; and, of special value in the industrial setting, a new accuracy/repeatability measuring specification.

Handheld technology expands

Figure 1 Zarbeco’s clever MiScope offers unique illumination, including a spectral reflectometry for narrow band imaging from the visible through the NIR.

At least two companies on the show floor will be demonstrating digital, handheld microscopes. Hirox (Hackensack, NJ; www.hiroxusa.com) invented the first digital microscope over 25 years ago. The company’s high-quality optical, mechanical, and lighting designs give its 3D Digital Microscope Systems the highest optical inspection power (7000×), along with an amazing variety of options and adapters, including the 3D rotary head adapter. At Pittcon, look for the next-generation 3D Digital Microscope KH-8700, a combined tool capable of observation, measurement, recording, and seeing things “as they are.”

Zarbeco (Randolph, NJ; www.zarbeco.com) is another newcomer to Pittcon. The clever handheld MiScope®-MP2-WUVIR (Figure 1) offers a unique range of white light, infrared, and ultraviolet illumination, with magnifications from 40 to 140× and resolution below 2 μm. Video ToolBox Pro software is part of the package, enabling display, capture, and image annotation as well as advanced measurement tools and comparison or overlay capabilities. The spectral reflectometry attachment allows narrow band imaging in visible through near-IR wavelengths using a high-intensity UV excitation source.


SPI Supplies (West Chester, PA; www.2spi.com) continues to expand sample prep capabilities. The new SPI CURE™ tool uses the dry bath process to aid in the curing of transmission electron microscopy (TEM) sample blocks, minimizing the need for large-footprint, high-energy-demand conventional ovens. The company has been especially busy developing new grid technology. In particular, look for their graphene-coated grids, providing a resistant, high-quality coating with excellent grid coverage, and TEM ceramic grids, which offer superior thin ceramic film surfaces for both light microscopy (LM) and TEM work.

Chroma Technology (Bellows Falls, VT; www.chroma.com) introduced magnetron-sputtered metal UV bandpass filters that exceed industry standards in both transmission efficiency and durability. Chroma’s production tolerances fulfill international ISO, NIST, MIL, and other standards. The new filters cover the spectral range from 200 nm, with OD4+ blocking, well into the IR, with laser damage thresholds of 0.15 J/cm2 or better. All sputtered UV filters carry Chroma’s renowned five-year, full-replacement warranty and industry-leading technical and engineering support.

Desktop scanning electron microscopes leap to elemental analysis

Nearly as soon as the first desktop scanning electron microscope (SEM) hit the lab bench, the debate had begun as to whether or not to add elemental analysis, particularly electron diffraction spectroscopy (EDS). Phenom-World (Beaverton, OR; www.phenom-world.com) has resolved that question, launching the new Phenom proX Desktop SEM with point-and-shoot EDS functionality. Optional smart mapping software offers choices such as a real-time mapping algorithm, which presents a live buildup of element maps while storing spectra at each pixel. Users can add or remove elements during or after the mapping process. Integrating the element map onto the backscatter image provides extraordinary insight into the general distribution of elements within the sample.

In a logical complement to its long-standing lines of optical microscopes and accessories, McCrone Microscopes & Accessories (Westmont, IL; www.mccrone.com) has added the NeoScope II benchtop SEM. With a magnification range from 10 to 60,000×, NeoScope II offers high- and low-vacuum operation, three accelerating voltages, secondary electron, and backscattered electron imaging, and accommodates samples up to 70 mm in diameter and 50 mm in thickness. Optional EDS is available for elemental analysis.

ASPEX was acquired by FEI (Hillsboro, OR; www.fei.com) in January 2012 and will exhibit in the FEI booth this year, highlighting the EXpressX, “the fastest automated bench-top SEM available.”

A robust and affordable scanning electron microscope, the EXpressX is well-suited for academic and commercial applications requiring rapid, automated particle counting and detection. The EXpressX provides precision and accuracy in identifying and characterizing quality issues so that the user can make informed decisions.

Makers of the larger SEMs will also be well represented on the Pittcon floor, including Carl Zeiss (Peabody, MA; www.zeiss.com) and Hitachi (Schaumberg, IL; www.hitachi-hta.com). FEI will capitalize on the rapidly emerging trend for in situ imaging of dynamic processes with the Quanta SEM, “the ultimate solution for in situ observations of dynamic physical and chemical phenomena down to the nanometer scale.” By providing a gaseous environment in the vicinity of the sample, and precise control of temperature and pressure, the Quanta enables observations and recordings of material processes and interactions under real-world conditions, for exploring fundamental relationships among structures, properties, and functions. Important applications include wetting, swelling, melting, crystallization, deformation, structural failure, heating, and cooling.

Particle analysis

Particle shape, size, aggregation, and other properties are always of interest to the Pittcon audience. Fluid Imaging Technologies (Yarmouth, ME; www.fluidimaging.com; blog: www.ParticleImaging.com) will unveil the new FlowCAM-ES® system, featuring new imaging particle analysis technology to bring the FlowCAM system into “atline” production environments. The FlowCAM-ES is a custom-configured system, enabling real-time analysis of particle size and shape, and automated particle characterization of particulates in fluids within a production environment.

Elemental analysis reaching for broader horizons

EDAX (Mahwah, NJ; www.edax.com) will unveil its new line of Octane Silicon Drift Detectors, promising industry-best resolution and speed performance with no compromises. Octane’s next-generation design overcomes the long-standing barrier of losing data at high count rates (Figure 2). To see the new detectors in action, visit either the Zeiss or Hitachi booths.

Figure 2EDS map (100 pA) of photo paper cross-section collected with EDAX’s new Octane Pro.

IXRF Systems, Inc. (Austin, TX; www.ixrfsystems.com) will be showcasing the unique, fully integrated EDS/XRF system for SEMs. This unprecedented, new technique uses the electron beam and micro-XRF (X-ray fluorescence) beam simultaneously, producing extremely accurate full-spectrum EDS/XRF elemental analysis at the ppm level in just seconds. When added to an SEM, the company’s XRF technology increases detection limits up to 1000 times, dramatically improving quantitative accuracy. The ability to excite in different energy ranges minimizes peak overlaps, providing clearer, more definitive spectra. For the budget-conscious, IXRF Systems offers free software upgrades for life on all systems, eliminating the need for expensive software and/or PC hardware upgrades.

Hyper-, multispectral, and IR imaging come on strong

While the equipment in the Agilent booth will be familiar, visitors will find new applications (Agilent, Santa Clara, CA; www chem.agilent.com). Especially notable for chemical imaging enthusiasts is a novel method of ultralow pressure micro-attenuated total reflectance (ATR) FTIR chemical imaging that removes the need for any structural support. The new approach permits samples to be measured “as-is” using direct contact with the ATR crystal. Agilent’s “Live ATR imaging” is at the core of the new technique. It provides enhanced chemical contrast, which not only senses the exact moment of contact between the sample and the ATR crystal, but also provides a visual measure of the quality of contact. Several key applications include observations on adhesive layers as thin as a few microns as well as 50-μm-thick polymer laminates, all without sample preparation.

The newly developed Nomadic™ from BaySpec (San Jose, CA; www.bayspec.com) is the only dispersive confocal Raman microscope simultaneously equipped with three laser excitation sources. The standard system comes installed with 532-, 785-, and/ or 1064-nm lasers, amply covering the spectrum from the visible to the near infrared (NIR), but the system also accepts custom lasers. Nomadic uses highly efficient BaySpec proprietary VPG™ technology, ultrafast electronics, and high-sensitivity charge-coupled device (CCD) and InGaAs detectors to cover the full spectral range from 400 to 1700 nm. Each Nomadic system consists of dedicated spectrographs and detectors for each excitation wavelength, ensuring optimal spectral coverage, spectral resolution, sensitivity, and versatility. Fully automated software operations include laser switching, laser power adjustment, pinhole adjustment, and image analysis. Coupled to a research-grade optical microscope, the Nomadic three-wavelength Raman microscope is the ultimate tool for the most challenging analysis in biomedical research, materials characterization, and forensic science, especially when too much fluorescence obscures Raman signal and only 1064 Raman can uncover the real Raman image. BaySpec’s Dr Lin Chandler will present an invited paper on the power of 1064 Raman especially for forensic applications.

Thermo Fisher Scientific (Madison, WI; www.thermoscientific.com) will be featuring the Thermo Scientific Nicolet™ iS™ 50 FTIR spectrometer, the first research-grade FTIR with one-touch operation. This highly flexible system is upgradable from a simple FTIR bench to a fully automated multispectral system that can acquire spectra from the far-infrared to the visible. Users can initiate novel ATR, Raman, thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), and NIR modules at the touch of a button, performing multiple techniques without manually changing system components. Proprietary software takes the guesswork out of interpretation, dramatically improving productivity in analytical laboratories focused on understanding complex materials.

Figure 3Anasys Instruments uniquely combines the power of AFM imaging with IR analysis. Left: AFM-IR spectra on electrospun polyvinylidene difluoride (PVDF) fibers under two different IR polarizations. Right: IR absorption image at 1401 cm–1 of crossed PVDF fibers under polarized illumination.

ChemImage has long been recognized as a pioneer in the microscopy–spectroscopy interface. ChemImage’s revolutionary chemical imaging ranges from Raman and infrared to fluorescence imaging technologies for chemical and biological applications in numerous global industries. Among the instruments that will be on the show floor will be the widefield, liquid crystal hyperspectral imaging system, which is used for forensic investigations, materials characterization, quality assurance, pharmaceutical development, medical research, as well as security and defense applications. Specific applications that will be discussed include Standoff Threat Detection for the defense industry, ingredient-specific particle sizing for the pharmaceutical industry, and questioned document examination for the forensics industry.

Unique hybrid instruments offer new structure:function relationships

Anasys Instruments (Santa Barbara, CA; www.anasysinstruments.com) has carved out a unique niche in hybrid technology, combining atomic force microscopy (AFM) with infrared spectroscopy (Figure 3). Anasys will unveil a number of innovations at Pittcon. On the spectroscopy side is an increased tuning range of 900–4000 cm–1, which allows its customers access to the critical fingerprint regime. Anasys will also announce a brand new technique: Resonant Enhanced Infrared Nanospectroscopy (REINS), which boosts sensitivity tenfold and spatial resolution fivefold. REINS enables the Anasys AFM-IR to work on very thin films (10 nm) with spatial resolution of 20 nm, opening key new applications such as the investigation of block copolymers and catalysts. On the AFM side, dynamic nanomechanical spectroscopy and mapping exploit the AFM’s full functionality for materials characterization, including chemical, mechanical, and thermal analysis. Finally, new system enhancements enable users to be more productive and make the system easier to use. These include alignment optimization, multiregion spectra, automated absorption image sequences, tapping mode AFM, and thermal drift compensation.

New technologies from WITec were under wraps during the writing of this article, but the company is renowned for its pioneering integrations. Watch for announcements at the meeting.

Raman flowering in all sorts of shapes and sizes

Raman microscopy continues to expand to wider audiences and applications like biosciences and forensics, driven by more powerful, yet easy-to-use, fully automated systems. Horiba (Edison, NJ; www.Horiba.com), an industry leader in Raman microscopy, will be introducing two systems at Pittcon that embody this new trend. For the high-end researcher, Horiba will debut the new LabRAM HR Evolution, and for more routine analysis, the lower-cost XploRA One series. In addition, two new microscope modules will be introduced: the MicroHead optical probe, which enables noninvasive chemical analysis of a wide variety of samples in different environments, and a Universal Microscope Interface that converts any microscope to a microfluorimeter or FLIM (fluorescence-lifetime imaging microscopy) system.

Ocean Optics (Dunedin, FL; www.oceanoptics.com) will launch the Elite series of spectrophotometers, which use high-throughput optical design and technologies throughout new spectrometers, light sources, and sampling accessories to eliminate the traditional tradeoff between sensitivity and resolution. The result is a new suite of powerful tools for low-light applications such as fluorescence and Raman spectroscopy.

B&W Tek (Newark, DE; www.bwtek.com) will introduce the BAC151A Raman video microscope. Based on the company’s patented design of a spectroscopic probe that mounts directly to a standard microscope, the BAC151A adds spectroscopic function to a conventional light microscope with minimal alteration to the microscope’s optical path. Additionally, using this technology, any of B&W Tek’s fiber optic spectrometers can be mounted to any microscope already in the lab, allowing one to perform microspectroscopy analysis with minimal capital investment.

On display at the CRAIC Technologies™ (San Dimas, CA; www. microspectra.com) booth will be the new searchable databases, comprised of over 8000 Raman spectra. The user can now search spectral data acquired externally as well as compare spectra with data acquired with CRAIC’s Apollo™ Raman microspectrometer. The Spectra Database Software package uses advanced comparative and analysis algorithms to rapidly search up to 5000 compounds per second. Additional features include database creation and management functions, key to growing a personalized database library. Subsets of the entire Raman database are also available and include application-specific units targeted specifically for customers working in polymers, semiconductors, forensics, chemistry, pharmaceuticals, materials science, and geological fields.

New technologies from Renishaw (Hoffman Estates, IL; www.renishaw.com) are also under wraps until show time.

Pittcon 2013: A rich offering for chemical imaging

From light, electron, and atomic force microscopy to UV-VIS, FTIR, and Raman, Pittcon 2013 will be a busy imaging show, celebrating the interface between microscopy and spectroscopy, giving eyes to chemistry.

Barbara Foster is President and Chief Strategic Consultant, The Microscopy & Imaging Place, Inc., 7101 Royal Glen, Ste. A, McKinney, TX 75070, U.S.A.; tel.: 972-924-5310; e-mail: bfoster@the-mip.com; www.MicroscopyMarket com and www.MicroscopyEducation.com. Ms. Foster welcomes comments and questions.