Home » MBJ FEATURE » Imaging institute at Mississippi State has variety of uses for its tools in business and research
Amanda Lawrence’s photo (above) of Pollen lodged in the hair on a spider’s leg won second place in the international competition at the Microscopy & Microanalysis 2016 meeting. Lawrence is a student with the Institute for Imaging and Analytical Technologies at Mississippi State University.

Imaging institute at Mississippi State has variety of uses for its tools in business and research

Debris stuck in the strands of silk produced by a bagworm.

Debris stuck in the strands of silk produced by a bagworm.


Zack Rowland, who recently became director of the Institute for Imaging & Analytical Technologies (I2AT) at Mississippi State University,  has long had a serious interest in photography and electrical engineering.

Now he is overseeing an institute with state-of-the-art equipment with such strong microscopic magnifications that it is almost possible to see individual atoms.

“Current research activities are being conducted at scales ranging from millimeters to Angstroms (Å) or 10-10 meters,” Rowland said. “At this level we are approaching the identification of individual atoms.”

Zack Rowland (photo by Russ Houston / © Mississippi State University)

Zack Rowland
(photo by Russ Houston / © Mississippi State University)

Work done at I2AT has a wide variety of applications.

“I2AT is very attractive to regional industries and research institutions,” said Rowland, who was the deputy director of the Center for Advanced Vehicular Research for 14 years prior to becoming director of I2AT. “At CAVS I was exposed and involved with many of the analytical processes conducted by I2AT.”

I2AT works for a lot of different clients including material manufactures, tier-1, tier-2 and tier-3 suppliers, insurance companies, museums and zoos. It even works with insect rearing companies to identify and solve problems in order to improve or maintain quality of their products.

“We are recognized internationally as one of the few center in the world that has the expertise and capability to provide insect pathology services,” Rowland said.

I2At is one of four centers under the  umbrella of the Institute for Computational Research in Engineering and Science at MSU. I2AT is a core facility with a 30-year history of supporting MSU’s goals in research, teaching and service.

“I2AT is a synergistic operation of technicians and major research instrumentation that is available to support faculty, staff, students and outside users,” Rowland said. “At the university level, I2AT focuses on multidisciplinary research activity which contributes to the growth and success of MSU’s research enterprise. Industry customers and affiliated institutions have access to state-of-the-art imaging and analytical equipment and services at competitive rates to meet their needs for research, product development, quality assurance and quality control.”

Rowland said continuing efforts to maintain relevant state-of-the-art research instrumentation at I2AT involves various funding means including competitive funding and university investment. This strategy enables MSU to further its capabilities in research, teaching and high-technology services for its customers.

“Our mission is to provide state-of-the-art technologies and an understanding of emerging/advanced techniques to support research, teaching and industrial customers,” Rowland said.

Rowland said innovative solutions in structural materials, healthcare and animal science demands a multidisciplinary approach to research.

“I2AT is committed to dissolving the barriers between scientific disciplines and bringing together multidisciplinary talent to drive synergy and accelerate analytical capabilities by employing the latest technologies and techniques,” he said.

I2AT instrumentation and expertise makes available resources such as optical and electron microscopes, atomic force microscopes, confocal laser scanning microscopes, x-ray computed tomography, x-ray diffraction, material spectrometer, differential scanning calorimeter, dilatometer, dynamic mechanical analysis, coordinate measuring systems, nanoindentation system, high resolution surface profilometery, microhardness testing, particle size analyzer, high-performance simultaneous TGA & DTA / DSC (ambient / 2400°C) with evolved gas analysis and 3T magnetic resonance imaging system.

“The electron microscopes can achieve imaging magnifications over one million times and provide material composition identification,” Rowland said.

“The X-ray computed tomography equipment provides the leading technique for providing non-destructive 3D imaging measurements and information approaching 1 micron resolution. The magnetic resonance imaging system provides clinical and research capabilities currently used in areas of general medical, veterinary medicine and cognitive science.”

The analytical systems provide capabilities to evaluate surface finishes, material behavior, surface elements present either within or on the surface of an object to address QA and QC issues. Microanalytical techniques can provide information about crystal defects, chemical bonding or redox state.

Examples of analytical services for companies include:

» Complement quality control efforts for original equipment manufacturers and automotive suppliers, identifying material composition, surface finishes and coating characteristics.

» Ascertain material composition (electronic, metallic and composite).

» Identify biological entities.

» Analyze combustion particle composition.

» Identify constituents in machining fluids.

» Verify component integrity (no cracks).

Rowlands’ career includes 23 years in automotive industry management and 12 years in the geophysical exploration industry. He has been awarded two patents for engine controls systems with several patents currently pending.

His research activities have included:

» Research and development (R&D) of advanced methodologies for ergonomic and cognitive human evaluation.

» R&D in telematics and heterogeneous wireless networks.

» R&D intelligent transportation systems, autonomous vehicle control and crash avoidance.

» R&D dual fuel operation for internal combustion engines.

» R&D hybrid electric vehicle drive train control strategies.

I²AT is housed at two separate locations. The majority of I²AT’s microscopy and microanalysis capabilities are housed at I²AT East, located on the MSU campus in the basement of Clay Lyle building. The radiological imaging technologies (MRI, CT, ultrasound, linear accelerator) are housed at I²AT West, located at the intersection of Highway 182 and Stark Road in Starkville.

For more information, see the website http://www.i2at.msstate.edu/


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