Surface Science: SPM Leads Growth for 2009

Surface science techniques include a variety of microscopic techniques for the analysis of surfaces and other microscopic features or samples. Images can be formed through several complementary techniques, ranging from traditional optical microscopy to more advanced optical techniques and methods that rely on imaging probes other than ordinary light, such as electron microscopy and scanning probe microscopy (SPM). Combined, these techniques represented more than $4.5 billion in 2008 sales. IBO forecasts growth of 3.3% for 2009, with the market approaching $4.7 billion. Several of the techniques within the surface science market are associated with the semiconductor industry, which was already showing signs of distress before the general global economy weakened. However, the difficulties in the semiconductor industry will primarily affect capital expenditures on the production side, with less of an effect on the R&D laboratory. Traditionally, IBO has not included critical-defect scanning electron microscopes (SEM), automated atomic force microscopes (AFM) or other process tools in its market data for surface science laboratory instrumentation.

Surface analysis, including secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS), Auger electron spectroscopy and other techniques, will be significantly affected by the negative conditions in the semiconductor industry. Most of these instruments require vacuum conditions in order to operate, and thus the samples that can be analyzed by them tend to be materials that can withstand that treatment. Semiconductor materials, and related materials in data storage and electronics, are the primary sample types. IBO forecasts a sales drop of 2.5% in this technology area. One of the mitigating factors will be public laboratory, academic and government surface analysis spending. Some spending of public funds may be delayed due to present uncertainties, resulting in poor performance in the first half of 2009. However, this situation should ameliorate by the end of 2009, leading to only a modest decline in the overall market for the year.

On a more positive note, the SPM market is forecast to provide growth in excess of 10% for 2009. SPM has important research applications in both life science and nanotechnology, areas which can support spending for various specific SPM techniques. In addition, various forms of AFM are increasingly being used in life science research on cells and tissues. For a long time, there was a huge divide between the materials science researchers who were experts in SPM, and the life science researchers who could benefit from it. A shift is now taking place as life science researchers become more comfortable with the techniques. They are becoming SPM experts themselves, and SPM is becoming a recognized tool within the life science community. The total SPM market was about $300 million in 2008.

Traditional optical microscopy remains the largest individual product segment within the surface science market, comprising nearly half of total demand. The market for lower-end microscopes may struggle in 2009, but high-end research microscopes should continue to be a good business. Similarly, confocal microscopy should grow at 7.6%, as newer imaging techniques continue to add versatility to this technology. Electron microscopy is forecast to grow at a modest 3.5% in 2009; curiously, the current trend may be somewhat opposite from optical microscopes, i.e. the greatest growth will be found in the young market for relatively inexpensive table-top systems.

Olympus and Nikon are the leaders in optical microscopy and top the list of surface science providers in general. At number three, Carl Zeiss is strong in both electron and optical microscopy. Hitachi High-Technologies and JEOL dominate the electron microscopy market. Other important vendors include Leica (optical and confocal microscopy), Veeco (SPM) and Ulvac-PHI (surface analysis).

Surface Science Instrumentation 2008–09

Market Share Growth Rate

Optical Microscopy 48.7% 2.7%

Electron Microscopy 34.4% 3.5%

Surface Analyzers 7.0% -2.5%

Scanning Probe Microscopy6.7% 10.2%

Confocal Microscopy 3.2% 7.6%

Total 100.0% 3.3%

Surface Science Instrumentation Market Leaders

Optical Microscopy Olympus, Nikon

Electron Microscopy Hitachi High-Tech., JEOL

Surface Analyzers Ulvac-PHI, JEOL

Scanning Probe MicroscopyVeeco, NT-MDT

Confocal Microscopy Carl Zeiss, Leica (Danaher)

Chart: 2007–10 Total Surface Science Instrumentation Market

2007 2008 2009 2010

Millions $4,382 $4,543 $4,691 $5,148

Chart: 2008 Surface Science Market by Product Type


Initial Systems2968

Aftermarket 978

Service 597

Chart: 2008 Surface Science Supplier Market Shares

Olympus 11%

Nikon 10%

Carl Zeiss 10%

Hitachi 10%


Others 50%

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