Research discovery

Trinity lecturer (and alumnus), Felix Hofmann, an Associate Professor in Oxford’s Department of Engineering Science, is the lead author of research that shows that a widely used engineering technique may have dramatic unintended consequences.

Focused Ion Beam Milling (FIB), a technique that revolutionised scientists’ ability to manipulate and study materials at the nano-scale, uses a tiny beam of highly energetic particles to cut and analyse materials smaller than one thousandth of a strand of human hair.

FIB was previously understood to cause structural damage within a thin surface layer (tens of atoms thick) of the material being cut. Until now it was assumed that the effects of FIB would not extend beyond this thin damaged layer. The ground-breaking new results demonstrate that this is not the case, and that FIB can in fact dramatically alter the material’s structural identity.

Dr Hofmann said, ‘Our research shows that FIB beams have much further-reaching consequences than first thought, and that the structural damage caused is considerable. It affects the entire sample, fundamentally changing the material. Given the role FIB has come to play in science and technology, there is an urgent need to develop new strategies to properly understand the effects of FIB damage and how it might be controlled.’

Posted: 24 April 2017

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