Safe etching for microscopic inspection of metals

Competition:        MICRA Commercial Development Grant

Funding Body:     MICRA, Midlands Innovation

Description:

Etching for microscopical inspection, especially in materials such as Titanium and Aluminium, is usually carried out using highly toxic chemical solutions of Acids or Alkalis which present significant problems in use and disposal. Increasingly we’ve found people asking for this capability in a desktop format for use in research labs and educational establishments.

This is especially prevalent in Universities, where the guidelines are becoming stricter than ever for student interaction with these chemicals. Also, within industrial research environments where companies are required to comply with REACH of which “To provide a high level of protection of human health and the environment from the use of chemicals” is one of the focal statements (https://www.hse.gov.uk/reach/whatisreach.htm).

Transferring and repackaging the company’s knowledge from STAT® of how to electrochemically etch surfaces with neutral low toxicity solutions into a fully automated machine would provide these institutions with a viable, cost appropriate, alternative to manual hands-on chemical swabbing of samples. This allows users to simply place their samples straight into a closed system desktop machine, clip them in place, select the material and area from an on-board touch screen interface and press go. Returning a few minutes later to find an etched, cleaned and dried sample ready for analysis with minimum fuss, reducing this nonvalue process of preparation to its bare minimum time requirements.