A new microscope developed by the TEAM Project (Transmission Electron Aberration-corrected Microscope), supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, has recorded the highest-resolution images ever seen (0.05 nanometer and below). This is equivalent to a quarter of the diameter of a carbon atom. This microscope will be delivered to the Berkeley National Laboratory in 2008 and will be fully operational in 2010. To achieve this resolution, this microscope mixes two technologies, SEM (Scanning Electron Microscope) and TEM (Transmission Electron Microscope). Such a microscope will allow to 'study how atoms combine to form materials, how materials grow and how they respond to a variety of external factors.'
You can see above "a high resolution TEM image of the dumbbell structure (0.14nm) of Germanium, which reveals that inter atomic distances can be measured with ultrahigh precision. The intensity profile (insert) brilliantly proves that the contrast level in between the germanium dumbbell reaches the base level of the larger distances of the structure." (Credit: FEI Company)
And on the left is a picture of the new multi-million dollar Titan microscope. (Credit: FEI Company) Please note that you will not find -- yet -- these pictures on the company's website because the company sent them me directly.
Here are some brief details about the technology used provided by the FEI Company's press release. "The unprecedented performance recorded in these two imaging modes has been achieved on a single instrument developed by FEI Company -- using Titan™ S/TEM technology -- equipped with two CEOS-designed spherical aberration correctors, dramatically improving the microscope’s imaging and other abilities. The special TEAM microscope is the result of a series of new technology breakthroughs, providing for higher stability than previously possible and incorporating the newly designed aberration correctors. TEM images obtained show an information transfer down to 0.5 Ångström. In STEM mode, frequencies better than 0.5 Ångström were recorded." Please note that 0.5 Ångström represents 0.05 nanometer.
But why is it important to build a microscope with such a resolution? The TEAM Project answers on this page. "With the TEAM microscope it will become possible to study how atoms combine to form materials, how materials grow and how they respond to a variety of external factors. These constitute many of the most practical things that we need to know about materials and will improve designs for everything from better, lighter, more efficient automobiles, to stronger buildings and new ways of harvesting energy."
As said Ulrich Dahmen, TEAM project Director and Director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s National Center for Electron Microscopy in FEI Company's press release, "As the first big collaborative project for the microscopy community, TEAM set ambitious goals. To have reached the 0.5 Ångström goal early in the project is a significant milestone for the collaboration, and a validation of the Department of Energy's investment in the development of world-leading scientific instrumentation. Now we look forward to transferring the remarkable performance of the TEAM microscope into a tool for exploration of atomic structure in the nanoworld."
A prototype of this very high performance microscope should be delivered in 2008 to the National Center for Electron Microscopy (NCEM) at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California. The TEAM instrument is scheduled to be fully operational in 2009.
Sources: FEI Company press release, September 6, 2007; and various websites
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