Researchers at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, have developed a method for observing the deposition of atoms by the sputtering process. "Nobody has ever been able to measure the characteristics of the film while it's going on--until now," says John Bilello, a researcher in the Dept. of Materials Science and Engineering. Fellow researcher Steven Yalisove predicts that the in-situ x-ray characterization technique will be widely used. The technique bounces non-interactive, high-intensity x-rays off the atoms being deposited. The ability to monitor the sputtering process as it enhances surface properties of the materials being coated will improve manufacturing throughput and quality control, say the researchers.