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A new powerful microscope on a chip

Started by Thilaga, Jun 16, 2008, 04:10 AM

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Scientists have developed an electron microscope which they claim is small enough to fit onto a fingertip and four times more powerful than the best ones already available in the market.

Scanning Electron Microscopes (SEMs) focus a beam of electrons instead of light and can capture stunning images of tiny structures with a 3D appearance, like the pollen grains pictured (right), according to them.

Lead scientist Derek Eastham said that his SEMs could achieve a resolution around four times better -- as low as 0.01 nanometres -- as compared with the best pieces.

In fact, the new product`s design uses a much lower energy beam in a device with just a few millimetres between the electron generator and the object being studied. That distance is more usually a few feet.

Instead of firing electrons from a tungsten filament, it will shoot them from a single atom at the peak of a tiny gold pyramid with a height of around 100 nanometres. The beam will be focused as it passes through a two micrometre hole in a silicon chip before it hits the target below.

"The electrostatic lens used in the new SEM still contains imperfections that will limit the microscope`s resolution but the effect should be much smaller," the `New Scientist` quoted Eastham as saying.
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