New Microscope Captures Nanoscale Structures in Dazzling 3D

New device stitches together thousands of images to create unparalleled visions of nature's tiniest objects.

Story content courtesy of Brookhaven National Laboratory, US

A new x-ray microscope probes the inner intricacies of materials smaller than human cells and creates unparalleled high-resolution 3D images. By integrating unique automatic calibrations, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory are able to capture and combine thousands of images with greater speed and precision than any other microscope. The direct observation of structures spanning 25 nanometers - or 25 billionths of a meter - will offer fundamental advances in many fields, including energy research, environmental sciences, biology, and national defense.

This innovative full field transmission x-ray microscope (TXM), funded by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, was developed and commissioned at Brookhaven Lab's National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS), which provides the x-ray source needed to capture images on the nanoscale.

While the focus for the new TXM will likely be on alternative energy fuels and storage solutions, the fundamental insights have already been applied to plant root structures, catalysts, and advanced electronics. The demonstrated success of the 3D imaging system has already attracted the interest of commercial users, with major corporations such as UOP and IBM scheduling time at the TXM. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) also plans to use the new microscope to probe the intricate structures of imported microchips in the interest of national security.

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