Advanced chemical, mineralogical and structural characterization of materials at different scales and in 3 D has become essential for understanding the fundamental mechanisms governing their elaboration and their properties. Beyond fundamental studies, it is also the starting point for the development of new materials, basis of any innovative application. 7 academic laboratories and 2 companies working on materials have come together to create, in the PACA-East region, within the scope of the Université Côte d'Azur (UCA), a partnership platform for advanced characterization of materials called ACT-M (advanced characterization techniques for materials).

These 7 laboratories are:

  • The “Centre de Recherche sur l’Hétéroépitaxie et ses Applications” (CRHEA-CNRS) working on the growth and study of semiconductor materials (GaN, ZnO, SiC ...) for optoelectronic and electronics applications
  • The “Centre de Mise en Forme des Matériaux” (CEMEF) is one of the main research centers of MINES ParisTech, installed in Sophia Antipolis. Nearly 150 people including 60 doctoral students work on the understanding of shaping processes of all types of materials (metals, polymers, composites, glass etc.)
  • The “Centre Commun de Microscopie Appliquée” (CCMA-UNS) is an university technology platform for electron microscopy whose main expertise concerns life science.
  • The “Institut de Physique de Nice” ( InPhyNi-UNS-CNRS ) whose research themes are organized along three axes: Waves and Quantum Physics / Photonics / Nonlinear Physics, complex fluids, biophysics. Among the research activities more particularly in connection with the ACT-M platform, people find optical fibers containing nanoparticles, waveguides in lithium niobate or functionalized nanomaterials
  • The J.-L. LAGRANGE laboratory is a research unit (UMR 7293) of the Observatory of the Côte d'Azur, the CNRS and the University Côte d'Azur working, in particular, on extraterrestrial materials
  • The Géoazur laboratory ( OCA-UNS-CNRS ) studies geological materials
  • The “Cultures et Environnement- Préhistoire-Antiquité-Moyen Age” Laboratory ( CEPAM UNS-CNRS) develops research activities about the knowledge of past societies, their modes of operation, their evolution and their relationship to the environment, particularly through the study of archaeomaterials

The 2 companies involved in this project are:

  • IMRA Europe is an independent research and development company combining technology and sustainable development for motor vehicle applications and any other non-automotive industrial application. It is among the world R & D leaders in the field of technologies for the automotive industry, by proposing disruptive technologies. Areas covered are mainly detection, artificial intelligence, thermoelectric and electromagnetic materials and treatment of the signal. IMRA Europe conducts basic research required for the development of its new technologies, accompanies its clients in the assembly of collaborative research projects until prototyping and technology transfer
  • Saint Gobain Lumilog Company ( SGL ) is a spin-off of the CNRS now part of Saint-Gobain. SGL produces and markets GaN layers and substrates mainly for optoelectronic applications. SGL has developed manufacturing processes and industrial equipment which allow it to produce 2 and 4 inches substrates. SGL has an intense R & D activity in Vallauris and benefits from the strong support from several Saint-Gobain international research centers. SGL has 20 patent families covering all aspects of manufacturing and marketing of GaN substrates

Various materials microscopy images
The 1st objective of ACT-M is to allow each of the partners to have access to essential characterization equipment for the development of advanced material, for both academic and industrial purposes. This objective will be the pooling of already existing electron microscopes and the acquisition of new last generation devices.
Existing microscopes are scanning electron microscopes (SEM) installed in CRHEA, CEMEF and CCMA laboratories. Each of these instruments has, in addition to conventional imaging and chemical analysis capabilities, original specificities open to all partners:
  • CRHEA : electron lithography and cathodoluminescence
  • EMEF : crystalline orientation mapping
  • CCMA : observation of large samples in partial vacuum

The CCMA is also equipped with a transmission electron microscope (TEM) dedicated to biology.

2 devices have been identified as essential for research and development studies by allowing three-dimensional characterization at very high spatial resolution :

  • A "double beam" SEM, electronic and ionic (FIB-MEB) equipped with analysis systems and a heat treatment chamber. This device has been financed by MINESParisTech and will be delivered in the fall of 2018
  • A high resolution analytical TEM (STEM). This unit will be equipped with a spherical aberrations corrector which will make possible to reach a spatial resolution lower than Angstrom (atomic resolution). High sensitivity chemical analysis will be possible thanks to an energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy system (EDX) with a wideacquisition solid-angle. A financing plan for this equipment was built with confirmed contributions from the Physics Institute of the CNRS, the University Côte d'Azur and IMRA Europe company which should be complemented by European FEDER and regional funds. The requests for FEDER and regional funds are under evaluation with a response expected for December 2018
Advanced characterization of materials

The 2° objective of ACT-M is to coordinate research/development actions about material sciences within the UCA area, in particular through scientific animation. ACT-M wishes to organize each year a "UCA Materials" day. The 1st event was held on September 14th 2018 in IMRA Europe building. The program and information about this event are available here (fr).

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