Broadly speaking, surface science techniques include systems that can be described as microscopes. The technologies range from traditional light microscopes, to other types of microscopes that interrogate surfaces with light, electrons, other particles or close physical contact, as in scanning probe microscopy (SPM). In total, these systems provide a variety of options for characterizing, imaging and analyzing surfaces at the micro- and nano-scale. Certain techniques can also penetrate the surface and provide information on deeper layers in the sample. The total market demand for surface science instrumentation reached almost $6.6 billion in 2016, and will approach $7 billion this year at an annual growth rate of 5.7%.
Two specific techniques make up more than 80% of the entire market: optical microscopy and electron microscopy. Despite a history stretching back centuries, the light microscope is still an important laboratory technique and is found in virtually every setting in the laboratory world, from forensics and pathology to metallurgy and pharmaceuticals. The market remains vibrant and is forecast to grow 4.7% in 2017. While somewhat more restricted in application than optical microscopy, electron microscopes can also be found in a wide variety of institutions, from academia to industry.
Traditionally a materials science technique, options for imaging life science samples are becoming more robust, helping provide market expansion. Growth for the year in this segment is estimated at 6.8%, buoyed not just by life science applications but also by investments from microelectronics and semiconductor companies.
The fastest growing surface science market is confocal and advanced optical microscopy. Beginning this year, IBO has added super-resolution microscopy to this category (removing it from the general optical microscopy category), thus bringing together techniques that are all at the forefront of microscopic research. This exciting area of the market is poised to grow 8.1% in 2017. Surface analyzers will also have a strong year, led by nanotechnology and other research areas that require the most advanced tools.
ZEISS is a significant competitor in the two largest segments of the surface science market, helping propel it into the lead of overall vendor share. Leica Microsystems (Danaher) leads both the optical microscopy and confocal microscopy segments, giving it the number two spot. Nikon and Olympus are the two other major optical microscope vendors. FEI tops the electron microscopy market and was recently acquired by Thermo Fisher Scientific (see IBO 5/31/16). JEOL is also a significant participant in the electron microscopy and surface analyzer markets. Other market leaders include Bruker, Cameca (AMETEK) and Ulvac-PHI.