Two students use laser equipment in the Physics Department

Lancaster Material Analysis

Lancaster Material Analysis (LMA) offers commercial access to material analysis services, in particular, scanning probe microscopy and cross-sectional imaging and analysis. The end-users of their services products include industrial companies and academic institutes. LMA's close links with the Physics Department allows it to tap into the considerable knowledge and expertise of researchers actively engaged in the study of a wide range of materials using these techniques.



Why they formed

Developed over four years in Lancaster University’s Department of Physics beam-exit cross-sectional polishing (BEXP) could benefit manufacturers of a wide range of high-technology devices, such as lasers, microprocessors, solar cells and LEDs.

Rather than producing a conventional cross-section that is perpendicular to the surface of a sample, BEXP uses a modified ion-beam polisher to create a shallow-angled slice through the sample. The cut can be hundreds of micrometres wide, whilst maintaining sub-nanometre roughness right across the area of interest.

This innovation allows a relatively low-cost branch of microscopy techniques, known collectively as scanning probe microscopy (SPM), to be used for cross-sectional analysis of samples with thin layers, a task which is generally performed by transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Adoption of BEXP+SPM can reduce the costs of cross-sectional analysis by 50 per cent or more.

BEXP was developed by Lancaster University’s Dr Oleg Kolosov, Dr Manus Hayne, Dr Ilya Grishin and Dr Alex Robson, and has benefited from funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council in the form of PhD scholarships, Impact Acceleration Account funding and a Doctoral Prize. A grant was also provided by the Joy Welch Educational Charitable Trust.

Expertise Offered

Commercial access to material analysis services, in particular, scanning probe microscopy and cross-sectional imaging and analysis. LMA will work with clients from the commercial and academic communities and welcomes discussion with those interested in the cross-sectional analysis of thin layers. Individuals or organisations interested in contacting LMA can email

Company Comment

“Lowering the cost of materials analysis is clearly advantageous for the development of the next generation of devices, while the introduction of quality control procedures using this technique at early stages of the production process reduces waste and lowers costs,” said Dr Alex Robson, managing director of Lancaster Material Analysis. “Our research has demonstrated that when measuring thin layers, BEXP and SPM analysis has a similar precision to standard TEM.

“The technique can also be used in combination with other kinds of analysis, such as X-ray diffraction, to extract even more information.” Dr Alex Robson, managing director, Lancaster Materials Analysis.

Collaborations and Successes So Far

LMA continue their collaborative relationship with Lancaster University. Further development of the BEXP technique has been funded by Lancaster University’s Impact Accelerator Account (IAA), and LMA stands to benefit by acting as the commercial route for this technology.

The IAA is £900,000 funding from the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council to finance a range of activities designed to foster greater collaboration with industry and bridge the gap between the lab and the marketplace.

LMA plan to apply for further funding for research and development, have taken on several interns, and are in discussions about a Collaborative Awards in Science and Engineering (CASE) –part-funded long term research and development projects, usually in the form of a PhD.