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Binghamton University to buy $1.75 million X-ray tool for research purposes

By Eric Reinhardt

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Binghamton University has plans to purchase X-ray equipment, which the school describes as “sophisticated” and useful in materials research as well as research and development for electronics. Binghamton will use a grant of more than $1 million from the National Science Foundation to help pay for the $1.75 million system. (Photo credit: Binghamton University)

VESTAL, N.Y. — Binghamton University announced it plans to purchase a new X-ray tool useful in materials research as well as research and development for electronics.

The school will use a $1.23 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) major research instrumentation program and additional money from the campus to pay for the $1.75 million system, per a Tuesday news release.

The instrument, a HArd X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy system (or HAXPES), allows researchers to get detailed information about a device or material without taking it apart.

Binghamton describes HAXPES as the “third of its kind in the world and the first outside of Europe.”

“This opportunity is one I didn’t envision even five years ago,” Louis Piper, associate professor of physics at Binghamton, said in the university’s release. “We didn’t think it would be possible.”

Piper was the principal investigator for the grant, which the NSF awarded last week.

Piper, who is also the director of Binghamton’s Institute for Materials Research, said the new equipment dovetails with the campus’ “industry-level capabilities.”

“We want to have unique tools that can act as a bridge between computational modeling and real-world applications,” he said.

The HAXPES, made by European company Scienta-Omicron, should be ready for use within two years at Binghamton’s smart energy building, which is part of the university’s innovative-technologies complex. The HAXPES is about the size of a pickup truck, and Piper notes that the Binghamton tool will have several upgrades.

“I consider it the Cadillac of HAXPES instruments,” Piper said.

About HAXPES

HAXPES relies on the photoelectric effect, one of the most important tools in condensed-matter physics and in materials science (and the basis for Albert Einstein’s Nobel Prize), Binghamton said. The machine shines light, or “in this case hard X-rays,” into a material. The material “accepts the energy and momentum and kicks out electrons.” Conservation of energy and momentum allows researchers to determine the chemical and electronic structure of the material being studied, per the release.

This is the kind of energy you would use for a chest X-ray at the hospital, Piper explained. And HAXPES will let him study a device like a battery in a way that leaves the battery intact, just like your doctor doesn’t remove your rib cage for that chest X-ray.

“We can see what we previously couldn’t see,” Piper said.

Contact Reinhardt at ereinhardt@cnybj.com