New electron microscope
Issued: Thu, 26 Jul 2012 10:41:00 BST
The University's Kelvin Nanocharacterisation Centre recently acquired a world-leading electron microscope which will allow scientists at the University to scrutinise individual atoms and probe their chemical, magnetic and electronic properties with unprecedented detail. The microscope is one of only a select number worldwide and has been further customized for improved resolution, making it unique.
The Centre facilitates researchers from across the physical sciences and engineering disciplines to create and examine materials on the atomic scale. Research from the centre has contributed to the development of a wide range of products, particularly in microelectronic and data storage applications.
The £2.65m MagTEM microscope was officially unveiled by Dr Alasdair Allan, the Scottish Government’s Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland’s Languages. Unlike traditional microscopes, which use visible light to magnify objects for examination, electron microscopes instead use a concentrated beam of electrons to produce their images. Electrons have a much shorter wavelength that the photons which comprise visible light, making it possible to resolve images at much greater magnification. Modern electron microscopes also allow scientists to examine other properties of materials including their structure, composition, chemistry and magnetism.
Professor Alan Craven, of the University’s School of Physics and Astronomy, said: 'The advances made in the field of electronic engineering in the last few decades have been staggering. The smartphones in our pockets are millions of times faster than the bulky desktop computers of only a few years ago, for example.
'However, the drive to make devices smaller and faster has led manufacturers to push their technical abilities to the absolute limits. As the scale of engineering decreases to where connections can be a handful of atoms wide, the need for advanced microscopy becomes more urgent to facilitate understanding of why a material or device succeeds or fails.
'We worked closely with JEOL, the manufactuer, to incorporate some bespoke features in MagTEM which make it unique. The new microscope will allow us to resolve a much greater level of detail than we have been able to in the past and offer invaluable support for the next generation of technology development. In studies of the types of magnetic materials commonly found in computer hard disk drives we will be able to see magnetic details in materials around 10 smaller and examine nanoscale events occurring in spans of time more than one million times faster than before.'
The acquisition of the MagTEM microscope was funded by the Scottish Funding Council and the University of Glasgow. MagTEM is part of the EPSRC National Facility for Aberration-Corrected Scanning Transmission Electron Microscopy, which is managed by a consortium consisting of the Universities of Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Oxford. It supports a wide variety of multi-disciplinary research by providing access to cutting-edge instrumentation and state-of-the-art data analysis as well as expertise and training in electron microscopy.
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