In April, 10-13, 2018, the group of Materials Science and Technology of Polymers at the University of Twente, leaded by Prof. Dr. G. Julius Vancso, has been organizing the Polymer Microscopy Hands-On Course, with limited to moderate experience in polymer microscopy. The morphology and microstructure of heterogeneous polymers and composites were in the focus of our interest.
During this Course, we offered 4 days long intensive sessions of AFM, SEM, TEM, FTIR and optical microscopy (OM) hands-on, combined with excellent lectures, in the polymer field.
Eleven participants have joined the Course from the Netherlands, neighbouring countries (Belgium, Germany), but also from Finland and Saudi Arabia. Most of the participants represented academia, but some of them also polymer related companies and industry. Two world-leading companies were exhibiting their microscopies: Bruker (FTIR) and Oxford Instrument (AFM), so the participants could learn about the newest treads and cutting-edge solutions in polymer microscopy during individual sessions. The 1st day we spent on sample preparation; from simple and quick, i.e. drop-casting, liquid N2-fracturing, to challenging preparation methods, i.e. cryo-microtoming and etching. Participants learned how to prepare samples properly to maximize the probability of getting reliable microscopy data. On the 2nd and 3rd day we focused on the polymer microscopy in groups of 2-3 people in parallel AFM, SEM, TEM and FTIR&OM hands-on sessions. The participants have had a chance to operate the microscopies by themselves under personal coaching from expert scientist. Several model polymer samples were investigated, from homogenous to heterogeneous polymers, like polymer blends, fibre- and particle-composites, phase separated copolymers (block, polyurethanes), hydrogels and grafted polymers. These samples represented a common physical state of polymer specimens, i.e. bulk, film, powder, and liquid suspension/dispersion. Despite obtaining the microscopy data and image processing, artefacts and experimental limitation were discussed as well during the hands-on. The last, 4th day, we spent on studying participants’ own samples. Participants obtained the assistance to find the best way to collect valuable scientific data and to achieve their objectives. Each participant could copy his/her own data on a memory drive to study it in more details later on by the analysing software that was also provided. At the end of the Course, everyone received the Certificate of Academic Education with the 2.5 ECTS credit points attached to it.
It is important to mention that our 11 participants were fixed by 11 staff members (instructors, teachers, experts, etc.), which shows that the Course was highly “personalized”, with 1:1 ratio that definitely boosted the transfer of knowledge and the expertise shared.
The satisfaction of the participants was evaluated at the end of the Course using a multi-question anonymous questionnaire with a free-writing space as well. This is our great pleasure to inform that, on an average, the Course made the participants “satisfied” and “very satisfied” as high as in 92%. Let us also evoke some comments on our Course we have found in the free-writing space box:
“Organization of the course was great”,
“I liked (…) and the open atmosphere”,
“I loved the AFM part”,
“My eyes were opened”,
“…very educational course”,
“I enjoyed it a lot”,
“I found the course beneficial…”,
“Staff was very helpful and friendly”,
“I was happily surprised by the possibilities with all the techniques”.
We believe that this Course provided motivation and basic skills as well as ideas for the further work of the participants. We wish all of them a great success in their scientific work.
The Course Team