[Homestead] Science. better microscope, better understanding
tvoivozd at infionline.net
Tue Sep 21 10:16:02 EDT 2004
State-Of-The-Art Microscope Pushes Barrier of What's Too Small to See
*By Duncan Mansfield* Associated Press Writer
Published: Sep 21, 2004
OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (AP) - Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers are
peering into the atomic world with record clarity, developing an
electron microscope image that can distinguish the individual,
dumbbell-shaped atoms of a silicon crystal.
"Every time you see something more clearly you learn some secrets," said
Stephen Pennycook, who heads the lab's electron microscopy group.
In a Sept. 17 article in the journal Science, Pennycook and colleagues
wrote that they have achieved an image resolution at 0.6 angstrom,
breaking the previous record of 0.7 angstrom which the lab set earlier
An angstrom, the smallest wavelength of light, is about 500,000 times
smaller than the thickness of a human hair.
Researchers say being able to see how materials bond together at an
atomic level could prove a significant benefit to the semiconductor
industry, chemistry and in the development of new materials.
For its latest findings, the Oak Ridge lab used a 300-kilovolt
state-of-the-art electron microscope aided by new computerized imaging
technology developed by Nion Co. of Kirkland, Wash.
The technology, called aberration correction, fixes imperfections on the
microscope's electron lenses.
"We are crossing that threshold where we can really see atoms clearly
for the first time ever," Pennycook said.
Pennycook compared the resolution correction technology to being able to
focus 50 lenses simultaneously.
"That is what makes it really quite a historic achievement because it
has been attempted for the last 50 years actually, and only in the last
few years has it really proved feasible," he said.
Five years ago the Oak Ridge lab set a world record with a resolution at
1.3 angstrom without the aberration technology. Researchers said the
next frontier will be seeing atoms in three dimensions.
On the Net:
Oak Ridge National Laboratory: http://www.ornl.gov
Nion Co.: http://www.nion.com
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