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TODAY OCTOBER 20, 2017
2013-11-29

New microscope captures movements of atoms and molecules

A new microscope invented at Michigan State University allows scientists to zoom in on the movements of atoms and molecules.

Electron microscopes allow scientists to see the structure of microorganisms, cells, metals, crystals and other tiny structures that weren’t visible with light microscopes. But while these images have allowed scientists to make great discoveries, the relationship between structure and function could only be estimated because of static images. In the 1990s, researchers added a fourth dimension – time – by using a laser to capture images of gaseous molecules as they were reacting.

Now, MSU scientists brought these “molecular movies” down to the nanoscale level, where the properties of materials begin to change. The work has applications in nanoelectronic technologies and in clean-energy industries.

The MSU team is one of the few in the world actively developing electron-based imaging technology on the femtosecond timescale. One femtosecond is one-millionth of a billionth of a second – a fundamental timescale that atoms take to perform specific tasks, such as mediating the traffic of electrical charges or participating in the chemical reactions.

The expected cost of the newly invented device is as low as $500,000. This device will be offered as an update for existing electron microscopes.

The work at MSU should be regarded as an extension to the work in ultrafast electron crystallography, which allows one to look at nanocrystals, their bonds and how they’re affected by their surfaces and water. The team at MSU also works to develop a radio frequency-enabled, high-brightness electron microscope.

Source: MSU


New microscope captures movements of atoms and molecules

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