There is a variety of analytic methods to obtain information regarding the topography of surfaces. They differ in their resolution as well as in the underlying physical techniques. However, all have in common that the surface to be examined must interact directly with the analyzer.
Often it is up to the sample or measuring devices dimension that an investigation is not non-destructive or is not possible without expensive assembly work. In many cases, this means high costs due to standstill or replacement.
These problems can be overcome by the newly developed indirect approach. A hand-held device (“replicator”) allows the non-destructive, cost-effective and rapid production of replicators of surface topography for high-resolution analysis with the press of a button. Indirect means, that a polymer with very good wetting properties is applied to the surface of interest. The polymer is then hardened extremely rapidly by ultraviolet light, through which a replicate of the surface is produced.
The goal of the project is to build an easy-to-use prototype for demonstrating the proof of concept under real conditions.
Development of a hand-held device with “Polymer-Pads”
The process chain takes place completely within the developed hand-held device, which generates robust and reproducible replicates.
The principle is comparable to that of the coffee machine pads. The customer can load the hand-held device for different applications and surfaces with specially designed mediators. What the different flavors of coffee are, are in the method presented here the different polymer pads that are optimized for certain surfaces (metal, plastics, ceramics, …), or to meet special requirements (e.g. replicate production at high temperatures).
Technology and Advantages
With this technology Dr. Lars-Oliver Heim and Prof. Dr. Robert Stark want to enable the non-destructive, reproducible, fast and “foolproof” generation of high resolution surface replicates.
Producing and measuring replicates instead of the surfaces themselves has the following advantages:
• No geometric restriction; the method allows the analysis of surfaces that are otherwise inaccessible.
• No restrictions due to environmental conditions during sampling.
• The examined surface can remain in place and position.
• Temporal changes to the examination object can be detected.
• Archiving of surface structures.
As part of preliminary talks an industry contact coined the slogan
„Bringing industry to the lab! “