Correlative Microscopy and Materials Data


Different microscopy techniques are used for the detailed characterization of nanostructured materials and their novel, diverse properties. These include light-, electron-, ion- or X-ray microscopy and the associated spectroscopic measuring methods such as Raman spectroscopy. The Fraunhofer IKTS develops intelligent and adaptive algorithms to evaluate and interpret the material data generated in this process and the complexity of their combinations.

In addition, modern material developments – for example for medical technology – increasingly involve composites of biological or metallic, ceramic and polymer materials. The Fraunhofer IKTS has sophisticated methods at its disposal with which material compositions and the associated physical and chemical properties can be analyzed under specifically adjusted environmental influences. These are thus not only recorded in parallel in a correlative working environment, but also investigated and described on different size scales.

The department works in numerous interdisciplinary projects with international partners from industry and research:


4D+-nanoSCOPE (Advancing osteoporosis medicine by observing bone microstructure and remodelling using a four-dimensional nanoscope)


The ERC-Synergy project “4D+-nanoSCOPE“ is intended to significantly expand the existing knowledge about osteoporosis using correlative microscopy. The joint project with the cooperation of the University Hospital Erlangen (Prof. Schett) and the Chair of Pattern Recognition (Prof. Maier) of the Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg aims to gain a deeper understanding of the underlying bone anatomy and cross-scale bone architecture. In addition, improved drug treatment methods and surgical concepts will be developed. The basis for this is the detailed description of bone in three dimensions (3D) on different length scales (from macro to nano level) as well as the changes in bone structure under load and over time (especially in response to medication). This dynamic monitoring as fourth dimension is realized by the in-vivo investigation of bone remodeling. In addition, information on bone morphology and properties – including mechanical strength and composition – can be obtained from which further structure/property relationships can be derived.

Research activities in the field of microplastics


Micro- and nanoscale plastic particles (MNP) are found not only in water but also in the air. In order to assess potential health risks of these MNP, the Fraunhofer IKTS is developing robust analysis tools that generate relevant scientific material data.

In current preliminary studies, the health effects of the organic microparticles on kidney and lung cells are being analyzed in greater detail. In order to be able to include MNPs of different size, shape and polymer composition under different environmental influences in the considerations, existing methods are further improved and new analytical approaches are tested. For the detailed morphological and chemical characterization of MNPs down to a size of 10 nm, the Fraunhofer IKTS develops correlative microscopy and spectroscopy workflows. To support these correlative workflows, so-called Nano-GPS tags are attached to the sample or sample holder in order to always be able to localize the same microparticles or Regions of Interest (ROI) in independent instruments. The expertise of the IKTS includes scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, helium ion microscopy with mass spectrometry as well as micro-Raman and tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (TERS).