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New Microscope Developed
OXFORD, Ohio -- Several years of engineering and research have
paid off with the creation of a new high-powered microscope in Miami
University's Molecular Microspectroscopy Lab (MML).
"Over the course of the project, several prototype microscopes were
designed and built," said André Sommer, assistant professor of chemistry
and director of the MML. "Four are at companies in England and the
Netherlands, and one remains here."
The scopes are called Fourier Transform Raman Microprobes. Sommer
designed and built the microscopes in collaboration with Perkin-Elmer Limited,
one of the largest suppliers of analytical instruments in the world.
Miami's instrumentation lab provided expertise in mechanical engineering
and machining, as well as facilities. "We had to make it fit outside an
existing spectrometer, make it easy to install, and enclose an invisible
laser," said Sommer.
General uses of the FT Raman Microprobe include identifying contaminants
in polymers and pharmaceuticals and performing forensic analysis.
During summer, juniors Brian Barrera and Sarah Stewart, both summer
scholars, worked on a project exploring the capabilities of the microscope for
the analysis of pharmaceuticals. They also conducted preliminary studies for
the Butler County coroner, identifying illicit drugs.
Most law enforcement agencies use infrared microscopes, which provide more
information about the material used to cut the drug than the drug itself. The
FT-Raman microscope hones in on the drug.
Several companies have sponsored research at the MML, including Eli Lilly,
Dow Chemical, Monsanto, Procter and Gamble, 3M and Kodak.
In a cross-section of Kodak film a contaminant of about five micrometers
(1/10 the width of a human hair) is magnified to nearly two inches, and is then
Sommer and a team including undergraduates, graduate students and a post
doctoral researcher, continue to explore new applications for the use of the FT
Raman Microprobe and enhancing the abilities of current infrared
Miami's exprtise in molecular microscpetroscopy and industrial problem
solving attracted Perkin-Elmer and other companies to collaborate on the
The agreement with Perkin-Elmer allows the university to keep equipment in
exchange for development of the microscope. Three instruments that remain in
Hughes Hall are used for collaborative research in chemistry, paper science and
the biological sciences. The donation of equipment and sponsored research over
several years has exceeded $350,000.