e-Remora: Automated in-situ mechanical testing in SEMs
The MAI (Material Ageing Institute) was founded in 2008 by EDF R&D and includes 31 other nuclear plant operators from around the world. The main purpose of this collaborative effort is to understand, model and plan the ageing of materials used in current and future electric power plants.
The MAI laboratory in Renardières purchased in July 2013 a micro-mechanical testing platform consisting of a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM), an in-situ tensile stage with temperature control and two systems of crystallographic analysis by electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) for fast analysis in high resolution.
EBSD is a non-destructive technique to obtain maps of crystallographic orientations at the sub-micron level, in order to study small variations in local constraints.
MAI has selected the Tescan MIRA 3 SEM, the MicroMecha tensile stage and the HJELEN EBSD cameras to build this unique and innovative platform.
The tensile stage can be driven by elongation or force and has temperature control from -150°C to 300°C. It is equipped with elongation, force and temperature sensors.
The platform must be able to run tensile tests in an entirely automated manner, without the need for an operator as tests cycles on material can take several hours.
This platform will give us a better understanding of the mechanism of material aging under thermo-mechanical solicitation, with unprecedented precision.
NewTec Scientific was chosen to write the synchronization software between the three hardware components: the TESCAN MIRA 3 SEM, the MicroMecha tensile stage and the NORDIF HJELEN EBSD acquisition systems.
In addition to managing the process (image acquisition, tension control), NewTec e-Remora performs corrective operations on the instrument parameters in order to ensure the stability of the experiment.
The originality of this solution resides in a fast link between the different parts. TESCAN’s Shark Remote module for example allows complete remote control of the SEM including real time image acquisition without the need for additional hardware.
Interfacing all hardware parts in accordance to technical specifications of the microscope is very important; NewTec e-Remora software has been built in agreement with all suppliers of the platform guaranteeing compliance to technical specifications.