Enhancing the Capabilities of Infrared Microscopy Apparatus


As the school year comes to a close, we are nearing the start of summer research! That is especially exciting for me and my lab team, as we move toward the next phase of our infrared microscopy project.

A Brief History of the Microscopy Project

When I first joined the Photon Spectroscopy lab over a year ago, we already had a functioning Bruker Vertex 80v Spectrometer. Also, we had just purchased a Spectra-Tech IR-Plan infrared microscope. We had no real idea if the microscope was fully functional, or if its MCT/A detector was still usable. With no guarantee of success, I began the long process of trying to form these two pieces of equipment from two different generations into one, functional, infrared microscopy apparatus. Eight months later, after countless 3D models, machine shop orders, optical mirrors, custom electronics and more, we saw our first spectrum data flash on the screen. It worked! The hard work had payed off.

Spectrometer, Bolometer, and Infrared Microscope at the William & Mary Photon Spectroscopy Lab

Spectrometer, Bolometer, and Infrared Microscope at the William & Mary Photon Spectroscopy Lab

Now that we know the apparatus is successful on a base level, it’s time to take this equipment to its full potential. First, that means adding transition optics to a Bolometer detector to ensure we can detect phonons across the full infrared range. Next, once we have a completely functional microscopy apparatus, we can start taking data.

For my own research, I plan to study ferroelectrics and chalcogenide samples. However, the possibilities for this equipment do not end with just me. Future students can use this apparatus to study interesting materials and take data on samples our lab has not studied before.

I am excited to see where this summer takes me and my research. If you are interested in following the course of my project, please look out for more blog posts in the coming months detailing the progress I have made.

-Ryan Wilmington ’18, William & Mary Department of Physics


  1. Ryan Wilmington says:

    Indeed so! It’s quite an undertaking, hopefully it will provide good insight into the day to day work of an experimental physicist.

    Yes, a wider range of wavelengths is exactly what we are after. We are focused on the infrared, but no single detector is perfectly optimized to read light intensity from all wavelengths. The material of the detector element determines what ranges are ideal, for example a MCT (Mercury Cadmium Telluride) detector is best from about 600 to 8000cm^-1.

    The IR microscope connected to a spectrometer is what allows increased resolution at smaller spot sizes, which is essentially the purpose of any microscope. The problem with trying to see something on the micron scale isn’t just that it’s too small, it’s that the resolution isn’t sufficient for us to see anything meaningful. I could take a photo of a human hair, and enlarge the picture 100x, and still not have a much better idea of what a hair really looks like. The microscope doesn’t just enlarge the image, it optically magnifies the image and has a resolution far better than the human eye.

    For non-visual sampling, this means a smaller section of the sample can be observed, vs the average of a larger section, which can reveal unique materials and structures that are rounded out over larger regions. That’s where ferroelectrics come in. Ferroelelctric materials have small domains in which the material has different properties. With a small enough spot size, each specific domain can be separately analyzed!

    Thanks for the support, good luck to you as well!


  2. This sounds terrific! Being an undergraduate student, this must be amazing experience to not only construct but run experiments on one device. It is great to see perseverance and dedication to this project already as it looks like it has some success. As a couple questions, do you plan on accessing a wider range of wavelengths in the Infrared (and possibly bordering) region? Are you attempting to create a higher resolution of this data? And, how does microscopy relate to ferroelectrics? I hope everything goes superb!