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Oxford Instruments wins King’s Award for Enterprise

Oxford Instruments has been awarded the King’s Award for Enterprise for Innovation for the Symmetry detector. Symmetry enables a deeper understanding of a material’s structure down to the nanoscale level. Symmetry radically increased the speed with which such in-depth analyses can be performed, resulting in the technique being much more widely adopted.

Image Credit: Oxford Instruments

Symmetry uses a technique called electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) to analyse surfaces for minuscule weaknesses or flaws in the crystalline structure. This helps understand how they came about and how they can be addressed.

The introduction of Symmetry dramatically increased the speed, sensitivity and resolution of EBSD analysis. Previously, analysing a large surface with EBSD was a painstaking process that could take hours, and a research laboratory had to choose between high-resolution or rapid results. Now, by adding Symmetry to an electron microscope chamber, analysis is possible in a matter of minutes. This step-change was made possible by a radically new detector design which combined a fibreoptic lens with a CMOS detector. The result was the only instrument to provide high resolution imagery at high speed.

Symmetry has made a niche technology more widely accessible with applications across a variety of sectors and industries – from developing far more robust and long-lasting batteries and semiconductors, to developing stronger aircraft turbine blades. It has even been used to analyse meteorites to help understand how extra-terrestrial rock formed.

“Symmetry was developed to provide our customers with a step change in performance and has enabled them to achieve significant speed and sensitivity gains as they aim to better understand and improve the properties of materials,” said Dr Ian Wilcock, managing director, Oxford Instruments Materials Analysis Group. “It was a tremendous team effort, demonstrating innovation at Oxford Instruments at its best, and I am delighted for those efforts to recognised with such a prestigious accolade as the King’s Award for Enterprise.”

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