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Hunting for clues

Are we looking here at a summit meeting of elegant writing implements? Or maybe a collection of nozzles for the finest confectionery?

Wrong on both counts, although there currently is a close connection to the food industry. We are looking here at the inside of what is known as a ToF-SIMS spectrometer. thyssenkrupp Steel uses this highly complex analyzer to examine, among other things, a new coating for the packaging industry.

Foto: Rainer Schroeer / thyssenkrupp Steel Europe Fotografie

Nothing remains hidden

Secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS stands for Time-of-Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry) can reliably detect the chemical components of a surface. It is therefore capable of providing information about the molecular composition of even the thinnest of layers.

Commissioned by the Packaging Steel business unit, the research and development department in Duisburg is investigating tin-plated steel blackplate, known as tinplate, for use in packaging. The material in the packaging must be food-safe and resistant to corrosion, so that products can be stored in it for long periods of time. More importantly, the new coating must be based on an eco-friendlier chromium-free process.

Surfaces reveal their secrets

thyssenkrupp Steel also uses the method in developing new products. The analysis technique can further be used to solve problems involving the production, storage, or transport of flat steel products. Incidentally, it is very unusual for a ToF-SIMS spectrometer to be deployed in the steel industry. These devices are mainly used in the semiconductor industry. But the technology has also drawn the attention of the Federal Criminal Police Office in Wiesbaden as a way of searching for clues.

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