Scientific bonding: IITD tests sample remotely using a high tech machine in Japan

In what may perhaps be the first of its kind cross-country scientific collaboration for sample analysis, researchers at IIT Delhi on Tuesday remotely tested the composition of a multi-layered thin filmed sample using a high tech machine at Bio- Nano Electronic Research Center (BNERC), Toyo University in Kawagoe, around 50 kms from Tokyo in Japan.

The collaboration that can be a game changer in the research ecosystem, will help in broadening the understanding of material science.

As Khushboo Agarwal, a research scholar in Physics at Nano Research Facility at IIT Delhi sat glued in front of her computer, scientists at the BNERC, Toyo University, Japan fed her sample into the Hard X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (HAXPES). Khushboo fed the parameters into her system and soon she got the compositions of her sample at a depth not found in the usual machines. After fleshing out the compositions, she will do the analysis and then delineate the elemental bonding.

“This is a great feeling. This analysis is multi-layered and goes down to a depth of 40 nanometer. It is an ongoing process and we will soon be analyzing more samples using this machine,” Khushboo says with a visible sense of excitement.

And as the sample got analyzed, there was claps and cheers from the scientists of the two institutes who had assembled for this online video demonstration.

Maintaining that the initiative would help the students of IIT Delhi get more advanced composition and elemental bonding data, institute director V Ramgopal Rao said: “We would also like to take it to the next level and reciprocate by opening up our facilities for the researchers at Toyo University. This will enable in weaving a scientific camaraderie between us.”

Dean R&D BR Mehta said that this could be categorized as one of the most successful collaboration. “We could actually do it prolifically because our research area was focused and also we got a strong support.”

Principal Investigator of the project Joby Joseph who is also the Acting Dean Academics said this has given an excellent platform to the students to operate a world class instrument while sitting in the lab back home. “This is a good starting point and we will take it forward on a bigger scale.”

His Excellency Sujan R. Chinoy, Hon. Ambassador of India to Japan who inaugurated the operation from BNERC lab in Tokyo, Japan said this was a momentous moment in the bilateral relations between India and Japan.

The current collaboration between Toyo University and IIT Delhi is sponsored by Toyo University for students and faculty visits, under the leadership of Toru Maekawa, Director BNERC and Shakti Kumar, who coordinated the equipment operation from Japan.

Demystifying HAXPES

While with the other X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS) instruments, one can obtain only the data from the surface of the materials, this advanced X-ray power, can help one dig out the core-shell structure of the nanoparticles and get the data from deep inside the materials. This will be especially helpful for the nano research scientists, especially materials, and bio nanoscientists for better characterization. The hard X-rays used in this machine is 5.4 Kev compared to the routine machines which uses either 1.5 Kev or 1.2 Kev.