News

June 2017

20 Years at the Forefront of Raman Imaging

From 1997 to 2017: First Scanning Near-field Optical Microscope (SNOM) (left) and WITec’s current alpha300 Raman microscope family (right).

The Raman imaging company WITec celebrates its 20th Anniversary. It was founded in 1997 as a 3-person spin-off from the Physics Department of the University of Ulm and has grown into a company of 60 employees including the Ulm headquarters and its branch offices in Spain, China, Japan, Singapore and the USA. As reflected in the company’s maxim "Focus Innovations" WITec’s success is based on introducing new technologies and a commitment to maintaining customer satisfaction with high-quality, flexible and empowering products.

Through the past 20 years WITec has established itself as a world-renowned manufacturer of confocal Raman imaging systems that embody the notion of German quality. Even WITec’s first production instrument, a Scanning Near-field Optical Microscope (SNOM/NSOM), continues to provide dependable, effective service. Dr. Julio Soares, Senior Research Scientist at the Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory, University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, says: “We are proud to be part of the history of WITec instruments by housing the very first of the WITec NSOM to be sold and that our laboratory helped on the further development of that instrument at the time. I think the fact the serial number one instrument is still running without hardly needing any technical support is an achievement in itself.”

Dr. Olaf Hollricher, Director of Research & Development at WITec, says: “Remembering the history of Raman imaging in general and that of WITec in particular, the terms innovation and development come to my mind first. The past 20 years have brought incredible technological advances in Raman analysis. And this development has affected the analysis of many materials, ranging from semiconductors to textile fibers to cancer cells. We always pushed on development of new concepts of Raman imaging and techniques, for which we were recognized with numerous awards.”

From the beginning, WITec’s Raman microscopes have always been extremely fast, with integration times in the range of milliseconds per pixel. Back in the late 90s, integration times used to be one minute per pixel – thus WITec customers could measure far quicker than ever before. All WITec Raman imaging systems use the spectral information of a sample to produce an image that visualizes its chemical composition and structure. WITec was also the first to offer combined microscopes that allow for imaging of a sample with several microscopy techniques that are integrated into one instrument. WITec’s latest innovation in correlative Raman imaging instruments is the Raman Imaging – Scanning Electron (RISE) microscope that has now captured the attention of many in the SEM community.

Dr. Joachim Koenen, Managing Director, says: “WITec’s success over the past 20 years is certainly satisfying. We have developed many new Raman imaging systems and techniques that we’re proud of. Sharing and exchanging our know-how with scientific and industrial customers for so many years has been really exciting. Still, we have many ideas for the technical improvement of Raman imaging that have yet to be fully developed and implemented. So I’m eagerly looking forward to the future of working with our customers and the WITec family.”

Press Release in German (325 KB)
Press Release in English (391 KB)
March 2017

TrueSurface – The Original Topographic Raman Imaging System, Redefined

Innovations in Profilometer-guided Raman Imaging

 

WITec, the inventor of topographic Raman imaging, has presented at Pittcon 2017 in Chicago the next generation of its patented TrueSurface optical profilometer. The combination of surface analysis and Raman spectral acquisition enables topographic Raman imaging on rough and uneven samples. One-pass simultaneous operation makes 3D Raman chemical characterization easier and faster than ever before.

We have documented the TrueSurface in a video.

 

“WITec established Raman topographic imaging with TrueSurface. We then continued to innovate, leveraging the inherent strengths of our systems,” says Dr. Olaf Hollricher, Managing Director of R&D at WITec. “The overwhelmingly positive feedback from our customers confirms that chemical 3D surface analysis with TrueSurface is a successful concept with an enthusiastic following in academia and industry.”

With the TrueSurface option, Raman spectra are acquired from precisely along a surface, or at a set, user-defined distance from a surface. This makes the distribution of chemical components within the sample visible in three dimensions. Rough, inclined or irregularly-shaped samples can be investigated with the same ease as standard samples. The requirements of sample preparation can therefore be drastically reduced. 

As the TrueSurface sensor actively monitors and maintains a set distance between the objective and sample surface, its closed-loop operation can compensate for any variations during measurements with long integration times. This keeps the measurement area in focus at all times and produces sharp chemical Raman images with sub-micrometer resolution.

Investigations on pharmaceutical tablet coatings, geological samples, composite emulsions, complex semiconductor structures and many other applications can benefit from the ease of use, accelerated workflow and methodological advantages provided by the new TrueSurface.

“TrueSurface is for everybody who wants to just take a sample, as it is, and put it under a microscope for chemical analysis,” explains Dr. Joachim Koenen, Managing Director at WITec. "Also, the combination of confocal Raman imaging and optical profilometry provides additional information on the chemical distribution of the sample components that are of great benefit to our customers." 

March 2017

Oldest fossils detected by Raman imaging

Dominic Papineau and Matthew Dodd in the Geological Spectroscopy Laboratory.
Copyright: UCL (UK)

When did life on Earth begin? Based on new Raman data from microfossils, scientists have dated the origin of life to at least 3,77 billion years ago.

Bubbling submarine-hydrothermal vents are believed to be the places where life on Earth emerged. Whether that happened 3.5 or 3.7 billion years ago or even further into the past is subject of intense discussion in the scientific community. Why? Because it is hard to determine whether or not chemical traces in very old sedimentary rocks– so called microfossils – are metamorphosed products of biological organisms. Dominic Papineau, a geologist who has long followed the tracks of early life, and PhD student Matthew Dodd, both from University College London (UK), along with colleagues used a microscopic approach to look for the answer. With optical microscopy they imaged thin sections from fragments found in the Nuvvuagittuq Supracrustal Belt (NSB) in Canada that once belonged to a very early oceanic crust. They identified 50 – 200 μm rosette-like structures.

Through chemical imaging performed with a WITec alpha300R confocal Raman microscope, the scientists could identify the compounds – calcite, haematite, quartz, magnetite and apatite - therein and their spatial distribution. Modern iron-oxidizing bacteria living in hot vents can form Fe-containing filaments and tubes. For that reason scientists believe that similar structures in much older rocks indicated biogenic origin. Similar structures found in Løkken jasper in Norway that geologically is somewhat younger than the NSB had already been attributed to mineralized bacteria. So the authors of the current study suggested that the carbonate rosettes they had seen are also of biogenic origin. They concluded: “Preservation in the NSV of carbonaceous material and minerals in diagenetic rosettes and granules that formed from the oxidation of biomass, together with the presence of tubes similar in mineralogy and morphology to those in younger jaspers interpreted as microfossils, reveal that life established a habitat near submarine-hydrothermal vents before 3,770 Myr ago and possibly as early as 4,290 Myr ago”.

 

In an email, Dominic Papineau wrote: “We used the WITec micro-Raman to map, down to sub-micron scales, the minerals associated with the oldest microfossils on Earth. This was vital to the discovery of key structures like rosettes, granules as well as minerals associated with the filamentous microfossils such as micron-size apatite, carbonate, and graphitic carbon, all of which point to the metamorphosed mineralised product of decayed microbial organic matter.”

 

UCL film with M. Dodd and D. Papineau explaining their microfossil study

UCL press release

The study was published in nature.

February 2017

A novel and intuitive operating concept revolutionizes Raman imaging

A new software wizard guides the user through the complete investigation, from initial settings and acquisition through data and image post-processing.

Advanced functionality, accelerated workflow and enhanced hardware control

WITec, manufacturer of Raman and scanning-probe microscopes, presents a new operating concept with the powerful and intuitive Suite FIVE at Pittcon 2017. Sophisticated features and hands-on control transform the user experience, enabling the researcher to move from setup to results with unprecedented ease. Suite FIVE provides an integrated tool for data acquisition, evaluation and post-processing that enables researchers to quickly extract key information from their experiments. All Raman, AFM, SNOM and WITec correlative microscopy measurement modes are supported.

“Suite FIVE combines new functionality with a simplified operating concept that encompasses both software and hardware. The greater automation and intuitive interface speed up the process and improves the results of data acquisition and analysis. It’s altogether more accessible and powerful,” says Dr. Joachim Koenen, Managing Director at WITec.

 

 

Suite FIVE introduces several features for enhanced performance and usability:

A new software wizard guides the user through the complete investigation, from initial settings and acquisition through data and image post-processing. Presets and highlighted analytical paths accelerate the generation of high-quality images.

TrueComponent Analysis is a unique post-processing function for confocal Raman imaging measurements that automatically establishes the number of components in a sample, locates them in the image, and differentiates their individual spectra. This delivers meaningful, comprehensive information with one operation.

Hardware control from within the software has also been strengthened. The new handheld multifunction controller EasyLink provides a tactile and intuitive interface for directing the motorized stages, white light illumination, laser power, autofocus, cantilever positioning and objective selection with the new automated turret. This further integration of WITec’s hardware and software provides greater synergy and speed while transforming the user experience.

“TrueComponent Analysis is the standout technical achievement, without peer in the industry, though all the new features contribute to a transformed user experience. These are results-oriented developments with benefits that will be immediately apparent to the researcher,” says Dr. Olaf Hollricher, Managing Director of R&D at WITec.

WITec Suite FIVE will be presented at Pittcon 2017 Conference & Expo at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois from March 5th to the 9th. See all the new WITec developments at booth #1638.

More information: http://www.witec.de/products/accessories/software-witec-suite/

Press release in English (262 KB)
Press release in German (266 KB)