Lyon Centre for Microscopy: inauguration of the Ly-EtTEM microscope in Villeurbanne in November 2013

25 November 2013

The Lyon-St Etienne microscopy consortium (CLYM) acquired an electronic microscope unique in France: the Ly-EtTEM which stands for "Lyon Environmental tomographic Transmission Electron Microscope". It allows materials right down to the size of an atom to be studied under controlled gas and temperature conditions: a major breakthrough in terms of observation and measurement technology.

This equipment and the new building which houses it were financed by the CNRS, Greater Lyon and the Rhône-Alpes Region as part of the State-region (CPER) contract for projects. The whole opening ceremony was held on Monday 25 November 2013, in Villeurbanne.

A purpose built home for the Ly-EtTEM microscope

Ly-EtTEM was installed at the IRCELYON (CNRS / Lyon 1) laboratory, one of the partners of the CLYM located in Villeurbanne.

With the project owner being the CNRS, the building of the accommodation for the microscope required special expertise in order for the very strict technical requirements to be met. "The technical environment allows the instrument to be used to the absolute limit of its capability” points out the CNRS.

As far as the FEI technical teams are concerned who are responsible for installing this type of microscope, it is the "finest known example in France of equipment of this type that has ever been produced".

Ly-EtTEM, a unique microscope in France

As with other CLYM microscopes, Ly-EtTEM is also used jointly by many Lyon and St Etienne university teams.

Ly-EtTEM is part of the family of "transmission electron microscopes", which in material science is an essential technique for making observations down to atom size.

This new microscope is however the result of some very special innovation work: it allows the imaging and analysis of materials in "environmental" conditions. Under such conditions it is possible to monitor reactions live by controlling the temperature and the surrounding gas pressure (up to 1000 °C and around 20 mbar). With its optical error corrector in "imaging" mode, this microscope allows among other things an atomic resolution of under one Angstrom (1/10 ° of a nanometre).

Not  only does the Ly-EtTEM allow images with a resolution of < 0,1 nm to be obtained, which is essential for structural surveys and for identifying adsorbed atoms, but also with the use of analytical accessories, it allows the local chemical composition to be monitored (down to nanometric or even sub-nanometric size). Another advantage of the Ly-EtTEM is its capability of carrying out tomographic electron surveys (3D imaging) for studying the changes to the morphology and distribution of the three-dimensional phases and for acquiring a three-dimensional appreciation of the microstructures right up to nanometric level.

Whether it's for studying the environment, transport, health, new materials, catalysis, etc.: the range of research subjects for which the Ly-EtTEM can be used is very broad indeed! Today this is the only instrument of its kind in France! So it's easy to understand the national appeal that the Ly-EtTEM has in the public and private research sector – especially for the chemical industry in Lyon, which is one of the stalwarts of the regional economy.

The CPER 2007-2013 project for the Lyon Centre for microscopy

The circumstances of the "nano- and multi-material" research which has been conducted by the laboratories of the PRES University of Lyon have led many of them to join forces in order to pool their resources and knowledge which is what enabled the CLYM to back an ambitious project as part of the CPER 2007-2013. 2 microscopy units were purchased for this purpose:

  • a double-column electronic / ionic, or FIB (Focused Ion Beam) microscope, equipped with  numerous analytical accessories and installed in 2010, and
  • an electronic environmental transmission TITAN ETEM (the Ly-EtTEM) microscope, installed at the beginning of 2013.

This project was co-financed by the Rhône-Alpes Region, the CNRS Institute of Chemistry, Greater Lyon and the ministry of research through the DRRT.

For the EtTEM itself, the budget comes to 2.82 million euros which was provided (including the microscope and a part of the building) by the Rhône-Alpes Region, Greater Lyon and the CNRS. An additional contribution from the IRCELYON laboratory allowed the construction of a purpose built room for the microscope, which meets the stringent installation standards needed to guarantee the optimal performance that the microscope is capable of in environmental mode and down to atom size. The budget was topped up with other contributions allowing the purchase of accessories which are essential for chemical analysis (EDX and EELS spectroscopy).

Find out more

The CLYM is a federal organisation which was recognised under the terms of the 2007-2011 establishment contracts, and extended after very positive evaluation by AERES over the 2011-2014 period. This federation is the natural extension of a scientific interest group, the CLYME, formed in January 1998, which for around 10 years was made up of partners from 5 Lyon based universities: INSA, University Claude-Bernard Lyon 1, Ecole centrale de Lyon, The Lyon Ecole normale supérieure, CNRS (ex-IRC, and which is now the IRCELYON) as well as partners from St. Etienne and the manufacturing sectors.

The CLYM is a tremendous centre of resources which as of 1 January 2013, was home to 9 instruments, including 5 instruments of its own and 4 "satellites" managed by a number of partner laboratories. As such, CLYM is a partner platform for numerous Lyon research organisations:

  • the labex Multiscale Institute of Science and Technology (IMUST),
  • the CNRS Federation Lyon Institute of Chemistry (ICL),
  • the international Engineering and Science Lyon-Tohoku Laboratory (ELyT-lab),
  • the Carnot Engineering Institute at Lyon (I@L).