Surface Preparation Laboratory
Penningweg 69-F
1507 DE Zaandam
The Netherlands
 +31-75 612 0501
 +31-75 612 0491
crystals@spl.eu
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FAQ

  • Crystals
    • Which materials do you supply ?

      We supply most metals and several oxides from stock. We also carry several of the more frequently used alloys in stock like Au-Cu and Ni-Al. For current availability and more exotic materials, please place your inquiry through our email, crystals@spl.eu.

    • What are the maximum possible dimensions of a crystal ?

      In general, the bigger the diameter of a crystal rod that is used to cut a crystal, the higher the number of defects in that rod. Smaller sizes are almost always better and should be preferred when crystallinity is essential for your experiment. To verify available crystal rod dimensions for a specific material, please check the element info pull-down box in the top-right portion of this page.

    • What are the tolerances of the crystal dimensions ?

      The standard tolerance of all dimensions on our crystals is +/- 0.1 mm. The two potential exceptions to this are the outer diameter and the total thickness of the crystal and reasons may vary from lack of availability of a suitable diameter source rod of sufficient quality (e.g. cutting a 8x8 mm square shape from a 10 mm diameter rod leads to rounded corners) and details of the polishing process (tighter alignment tolerances mean we have to make more corrections to the orientation of the surface normal in later stages of the polishing process which can compromise the total thickness of the crystal at the expense of an accurate alignment).

    • Can you make a custom shaped crystal ?

      Yes, customized crystals are our specialty and we do them all the time. The crystal shapes that are displayed on the Request Quote page are just a limited set of standard shapes of the many crystals that we make on a daily basis. We provide many tailor-made crystals with arbitrary shapes and dimensions, so please send a simple drawing to crystals@spl.eu to verify whether or not the specific design that you have in mind can be made.

    • How accurately can you align a crystal surface ?

      The best alignment option that we can offer is to align a crystal surface to an accuracy of approximately 0.1 degrees using our Laue CCD system. From an instrumental point of view a more accurate alignment is theoretically possible, but is pointless since it intertwines with the sampled area of the X-ray beam, the quality of the source rod being used, and the roughness specification of the polished surface. We offer reduced pricing for the alignment if the allowable miscut is less than half a degree or less than one degree.

    • What specifications can you provide for crystallinity ?

      We are frequently asked to guarantee the width of the specular reflection of a crystal, in particular for demanding applications like X-ray standing waves (XSW). The answer to this question is that we cannot guarantee an exact number and can only offer the smallest possible width on a best-effort basis. To begin with, all crystals that exhibit any appreciable form of mosaicity in our Laue system are tossed out of production. Second, the width of specular or surface reflections is in no small part affected by the polishing procedure. The polishing that we perform on crystalline metal surfaces always leaves a distorted cold work layer that needs to be annealed prior to achieving the ultimate crystallinity. This ultimate crystallinity, which is ideally identical to the quality of the source rod, is only achieved in-situ at the end-user facility and is therefore beyond our control. Third, the equipment that we use to align crystals lacks the possibility to evaluate the quality of a single crystal at the same level of detail that is possible in e.g. modern third generation synchrotrons. Hence we can only commit to providing the best crystallinity on a best-effort basis, but are more than willing to tailor our preparation and polishing procedures towards your experiments, if so requested.

    • Can you repolish a crystal ?

      Yes, we can. In fact, our repolishing services include an assessment of the quality of the crystal that you have sent back for repolishing. If the crystallinity is still sufficient to warrant a proper alignment we will provide you the repolished crystal back for just the polishing costs and with no addditional costs for a new crystal. If the crystal lattice is damaged beyond the point where it is stilll deemed to be useful for your experiments, we will contact you to plot a further course of action.

    • Do your crystals need further preparation after delivery ?

      Yes, most definitely so. A metal surface cannot be prepared into an atomicaly flat state through the polishing and etching recipes that we employ to prepare crystals. The polished surfaces that we provide are a starting point for further in-situ preparation in a UHV environment.   The roughness of the polished surface is minimized to provide a surface profile that will naturally evolve into the flattest possible crystal facet of the desired orientation after further sputtering and annealing.

    • Are your crystals provided in a clean state ?

      Yes and no. On the one hand: Yes, they are provided in the cleanest possible state on a macroscopic scale and go through several cycles of rinsing in aceton p.A. prior to being shipped out to our customers. On the other hand: No, with the sensitivity  of a surface science technique like LEED or XPS, after our in-house cleaning treatment and transport through ambient, there will always be several monolayers of hydrocarbons and water present on the samples that will prevent the recording of a well-defined LEED pattern or a representative XPS spectrum. Further in-situ preparation will always be required.

    • Which roughness specifications do you offer ?

      At present we offer a single roughness specification for all crystals that we provide. We guarantee an Ra value smaller than 0.03 μm for the full width of the polished surface region. This means that we not only guarantee the flatness on the length scale of atomic terraces, but over the full macroscopic width of the sample to ensure that the orientational accuracy of the surface normal is maintained in a manner that is independent of position.

  • Ordering
    • What information do you need for a quotation ?

      To issue a quotation we need at least the following minimum information:

      • The name and address to whom the quotation should be addressed
      • The crystal material that you would like to order
      • The number of crystals that you would like to order
      • The orientation of the polished facet
      • The allowable miscut angle
      • All relevant dimensions for the shape of the crystal
      • Any other essential info like e.g. azimuthal orientation

    • How can I place an order ?

      After you have received a formal quotation from us, there are roughly two ways in which we accept orders. The first and most common one is to simply submit an official Purchase Order (PO) from your company or institution to crystals@spl.eu or by faxing a PO to +31756120491. The order is firm after we receive the PO and will be confirmed by email within at most a few days. The order confirmation will contain the estimated shipping date and the invoiced amount is due upon receipt of invoice. The invoice in turn is issued after the goods are shipped. The second option to place a PO is to request a pro forma invoice. Once we have provided the pro forma invoice to you, the order will be confirmed after receipt of payment and production of the crystal will begin thereafter.

    • What information do you need when we place an order ?

      In a purchase order, please include the following information:

      • The reference number of the quotation that the order is based on.
      • An invoice address (physical address or accounts payable email address).
      • A delivery address (has to be a street address that the courier driver can deliver to, i.e. __NO__ P.O. boxes).
      • The incoterms under which you are placing the order.
      • If you are ordering from within the EU: your institution's VAT number.
      • A contact phone number for the courier service.

      Additionally, you may want to provide the following info:

      • A non-EU taxpayer ID in case it is needed to claim exemptions from duties and import taxes with Customs.
      • Contact info for the procurement department of your institution and the name of the person handling the order.

    • I need my crystal yesterday. Can you deliver it A.S.A.P. ?

      This is the single most frequently asked question we receive. YES, we are more than happy to help out, whatever your predicament is, beit synchrotron beamtime or other deadlines. There is just one simple boundary condition within which we handle expedited orders, and that is that we will need to receive a formal purchase order in writing (send it by email or fax) before we start cutting into a crystal rod. Since we live in a bureaucratic world where purchasing departments can take weeks, or in the occasional case even months, to process an order, you will have to fast-track the PO for your expedited order through your own procurement process before we can start producing.

    • Do you have an agency in my country ?

      With only two exceptions we directly take orders from all countries globally. From Japan we accept orders through our agent, Techscience. From China, we take orders directly, but channel the orders through Omtech Opto-Electronics, who are our preferred partner to facilitate the import paperwork that is required to import crystals into mainland China.

    • How can I order a curved crystal ?

      The curved crystals that we provide are not yet part of the Request Quote page of our website since there are several important details like the angular range, radius of curvature and azimuthal orientation that we need to coordinate in detail with our end customers before we can issue a formal quotation. Please contact us directly at crystals@spl.eu to discuss the details of the curved crystal that you need.

  • Shipping and delivery
    • Which shipping options do you offer ?

      SPL exclusively ships its crystals through Federal Express. We use the International Priority service for foreign deliveries and Priority Overnight service for domestic deliveries to ensure the fastest possible delivery. For all EU and US customers this means next-day delivery. For our customers in Latin America, Africa, the Far East and Australia delivery times are two to four days depending on the precise delivery location.

    • Can I use my institution's FedEx account ?

      Of course and you are more than welcome. Just be advised that we will always issue a packing and handling charge on any shipment since we still have to adequately pack the shipment for transport and have to set up the shipment, including preparing any customs paperwork that needs to be provided for import.

    • Do you use other couriers than FedEx ?

      Not at present. SPL is fully set up to automatically initiate a shipment through FedEx and provide all the customs paperwork electronically. Even if you were to provide an account number that we could use to ship through e.g. UPS or DHL, the time required to set up the shipment, i.e. fill out the old-fashioned carbon paper style airway bills, is simply too time consuming. Therefore, if you wish to order using an incoterm where the shipping is paid for by the consignee, please provide a valid FedEx account number that we can use to set up the shipment.

    • Are your shipments insured ?

      Yes, we issue transport insurance on all our shipments and principally do not ship a single crystal without it. If you wish to not pay the shipping insurance charge, please place your order using the appropriate incoterm and beware that 1)  the full risk for damage to your goods transfers to the consignee accordingly and 2) we either need proof of transport insurance from the consignee or we will require full prepayment on shipments that are presumed uninsured.

    • How fast do you normally ship your orders ?

      All orders are normally shipped 2 to 5 weeks ARO, which means after receipt of order. If we cannot meet this delivery deadline we will always be in touch to inform you of the delayed delivery. A general caveat with the expected shipping time is that it is established only after receipt of a formal order. Since it is common for purchasing departments to take some time (one to two weeks) to process an order request, the shipping date may be later than what you anticipated.

    • What is the tracking number for my shipment ?

      We are providing automated tracking updates through FedEx when a shipment is created, picked up and delivered. If you do not receive any automated tracking on the email address that was used to place the order, please check your spamfilters and spambox to make sure that the tracking mesages did not get filtered out unintentionally.

    • I need my shipment to be shipped through regular airfreight. Is this possible ?

      For taxation reasons, the only country for which we allow exceptions to our policy of shipping exclusively through FedEx is Brazil. If you wish us to ship to Brazil through regular airfreight, an additional surcharge of € 120 applies since we have to put together a specialized little wooden crate that will stand the torture of being put on a regular aircraft cargo plate, as well as having to go through a lot of additional paperwork for which we do not have an automated setup. If you would like us to ship to Brazil using this mode of transport, we can only offer a quotation using the EXW incoterm since our transport insurance policy does not cover non-courier shipments.

  • Payment
    • What is your preferred method of payment ?

      Virtually all payments that we receive are made by bank transfer. On the quotation, order confirmation and invoice that you have received from us you will find all banking details like the IBAN account number and BIC code that are necessary to send your remittance for the delivered crystals.

    • What are your normal terms of payment ?

      Our normal terms of payment for orders that are placed through a regular purchase order are DOR (Due On Receipt). This means that the invoiced amount is due after receipt of the goods. We issue an invoice for the goods when they are shipped, so you normally receive both the goods and invoice simultaneously. We do not normally issue quotations under NETXX payment terms where a delayed payment of XX days is allowed.

    • Which methods of payment do you accept ?

      We accept payments by direct/wire/SWIFT transfer to our bank account. We also accept credit cards and checks. For the occasional situation where none of these are possible, we have a Paypal account that can be used when all other options are exhausted.

    • Do you accept credit cards ?

      Yes, we do. Once you are happy with all the details in the quotation you received, just send an email to let us know you would like to pay by credit card and we will provide you with a secure payment link to process your credit card payment online. A 5% surcharge to cover the transaction costs that the credit card companies charge us will be added to the total amount.

  • DO’s and DON’Ts with metal crystals
    • DO: Use springs to clamp a crystal in a sample holder

      Metal leaf springs, typically made out of higher melting point refractories, do not fixate a crystal in a rigid manner. They thereby prevent a lot of damage to the crystal since they allow for thermal expansion during annealing.

    • DO: Anneal gently when introducing your sample into UHV

      When a metal crystal is delivered and introduced into UHV, it carries with it a few manolayers of water and hydrocarbons that are adsorbed from ambient. Since carbon is bulk soluble in most metals to some degree, it is normally wise to initiate the preparation of a metal crystal by prolonged sputtering, i.e. several monolayer equivalents, followed by a stepwise, but gentle ramping up of the anneal temperature to prevent the carbon layer from diffusing into the bulk during annealing.

    • DO: Clean dust particles of the surface using dry nitrogen or acetone p.A.

      Occasionally a dust particle will settle on the polished surface of the crystal prior to mounting in the experimental setup. To remove it, dry nitrogen should be used and should be sufficient to blow such particulates off the surface. In a few remote cases, the particle will still stick to the surface and cannot be removed. In that case, acetone p.A. can be used to clear the surface. Drop a single droplet of acetone p.A. on the polished surface, and blow it off the polished surface under an angle using dry nitrogen before it has a chance to dry and form stains. Do not use ethanol, since it has the tendency to leave a hazy, organic residue on the surface that will then need to be removed through extensive sputtering and annealing.

    • DON'T: Anneal an unprepared crystal to very high temperatures

      When a crystal is delivered it carries with it a few monolayers of adsorbates from ambient, typically water and some hydrocarbons. The carbonaceous content of these adsorbates will be annealed into the near surface portion of the bulk of the crystal if the crystal is immediately annealed to very high temperatures prior to any sputtering. After such an initial cycle, it will become virtually impossible to remove it through sputtering and annealing as it spreads further through the bulk with every anneal cycle. Silver, with a small, but non-negligible bulk solubilty for carbon, is a notorious case where this has a tendency to happen, and it can in cases be wiser to repolish a crystal to fully remove the carbon-poisoned layer of the crystal instead of persisting in removing the impurity through extensive sputtering/annealing.

    • DON'T: Use screws or hard objects to fixate a crystal

      The most common kind of damage we observe in crystals that are offered for repolishing are large plastic deformations around places where the crystal was previously clamped or held in place. It is important to realize that crystal holders and components clamping crystals are subject to considerable temperature variations when a crystal is annealed. As a result thermal expansion occurs and this can cause something like a thick plate, screw head or other fixating element that is loosely holding the crystal in place at room temperature, to turn into a virtual death trap for the delicate single crystal when it is heated and expands. It is important to allow for thermal expansion of the crystal prefereably through leaf spring clamps, and where this effect cannot be prevented and a hard fixation is required, to design a crystal using one of several options that we offer like ledges or slits in a crystal to confine the deformation to a region of the crystal that is not under investigation.

    • DON'T: Put a metal crystal in an ultrasound to clean it

      Although at first nothing appears wrong with the idea, and the metal crystal will come out of the ultrasound in one piece, it can immediately be trashed after this treatment. The ultrasound couples into the crystal lattice and tends to induce polycrystallinity in the surface region of the crystal. The degree to which this occurs depends on the material and the details of the ultrasound treatment. Once the polycrystalline region is formed, annealing it will lead to a further recrystallization in the surface region.

    • DON'T: Clean a polished crystal surface with a cotton tip

      A cotton tip contains many particulates with an abrasive action that are substantially larger than those that are used to polish the surface of a crystal. Whereas you may get away with using a cotton tip on most harder materials, on softer, lower melting point metals, they will do irreparable damage.

  • Terms, conditions and policies
    • What terms and conditions apply to your quotations ?

      In all honesty, we exclusively offer delivery of our products under the regular set of incoterms and do not make any exceptions to those. We hate bureaucracy and paperwork as much as everybody else and do not have any delivery conditions or other legal fine print with plenty of caveats that apply to our commercial offers. What we quote is what you get.

    • Do you accept my institution's purchasing conditions ?

      Simply put: NO ! We frequently have to unearth our fax machine from a pile of paper because PO's still include more pages of purchasing conditions than a Harry Potter novel. We simply do not accept them, cannot spend the time to read them, or even take the sheer amount of legalese in them seriously.

    • What warranty do you provide on your products ?

      The alignment, purity, crystallinity and surface roughness of SPL's products have all been monitored or analyzed prior to shipment and are guaranteed to be within the tolerances specified on the quotations we issue. In cases where a dispute arises over defects or inconsistencies, one of our core strengths is that we will always work with our end-customers to positively resolve the problem that is experienced, beit through a simple repolishing and realignment, or ultimately a complete replacement of the product.

    • My crystal is damaged and I demand it to be replaced. Do you agree ?

      The crystals we provide are consumables and, like any other product, show wear when used for experiments. Over time the crystallinity tends to degrade and the crystal tends to collect impurities from the experiments it is used for or the system it is used in. When exposed to high enough temperatures the dimensions will slowly go out of spec, and the local alignment will alter as a result of forces exerted on the crystal. The degradation of a crystal sets in immediately after it is first clamped or mounted in an experimental setup and prepared. From the many years of experience that we have in crystal preparation it is fairly trivial to tell apart the effects of regular and correct use of the crystal on the one hand, and a faulty product that we may have inadvertently provided on the other hand. This also holds for defects and damage caused by misguided use and other forms of torture and maltreatment that crystals can be put through. We will replace them if we are at fault, and will work with our customers to resolve the problems that are experienced in other cases.