Published June 17, 2014
Volume 22, Number 6


High-Tech Electron Microscopes Created by IDES
Microscopes Move Beyond Academic Research
Integrated Dynamic Electron Solutions

By Zoe Francis

Some of the tiniest and fastest particles in the universe are getting new exposure with a high-powered electron microscope built right in Hacienda.

Integrated Dynamic Electron Solutions, or IDES, specializes in dynamic transmission electron microscopy, or DTEM.

“Nano particles or nano materials exhibit behaviors that occur at very fast time scales,” Dan Masiel, founder and CEO, explained. “Our imaging technology allows you to capture the movement or behavior or chemical reactions that occur at incredibly high speeds. We combine the very small with the very fast. That’s what our instruments enable.”

IDES starts with a base microscope built by JEOL, which also has an office in Hacienda.

“We take existing electron microscopes, and we add a bunch of parts to them that basically allow you to integrate a laser system into the microscope,” he said. “We build those lasers as well. The lasers give the microscope its very fast time resolution. Our customers are then able to perform experiments on very small objects at very high speeds.”

A biologist may use an IDES microscope to see how proteins form and transform. A material scientist could examine a particular type of alloy to determine when it will start to deform under certain stress conditions.

“It’s sort of like unlocking the secrets of how materials behave at very high speeds,” Masiel said. “It’s more about fundamentally understanding materials than understanding a particular project.”

Masiel, a scientist with a PhD in chemistry, worked with a team at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory that developed this particular microscope technology. He was a graduate student while working on the project.

“After I finished my PhD, I licensed this technology from Lawrence Livermore and started the company,” he said. “Lots of universities and national labs will take technology that their scientists develop and offer it to companies in exchange for royalties. They actively want to get their technology out, but they’re not capable of commercializing it.”

IDES was founded in 2009 with Masiel and a former lab scientist at the helm. The company currently has four employees.

“We never had venture capital,” he said proudly. “We sort of just boot-strapped it as a two-person operation the first four years and things have thankfully taken off.”

The company’s first microscope was developed within the first year the company was founded. The massive room-sized microscopes range in price from $1.5 million to $2.5 million and are shipped around the world, including Switzerland, Korea, Canada, France and Sweden.

“We sell almost all of our (products) internationally,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of success getting foreign countries to fund our customers to build these projects.”

The high price of the microscopes means that research facilities, the most common IDES customer,often seek government funding to help cover the cost. The recovering American economy could mean that federal research budgets will bounce back, bringing U.S. customers to IDES.

Experts in the semiconductor and biotechnology fields are expressing interest in IDES microscopes, which would open the market beyond academic research. In addition, the company plans to develop related instruments that are much more affordable.

“It’s extremely exciting,” Masiel said. “We basically had this one-of-a-kind instrument, an unprecedented piece of technology. It took years and years for us to develop it at the lab. If we wanted to see this field grow, someone needed to commercialize it and make it available.”

Learn more about IDES and its innovative microscope at phaseplate.com.


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