AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland funded materials science centre based at Trinity College, has launched Ireland’s most powerful microscope the NION UltraSTEM 200.
This world class tool can analyse single atoms and objects a million times smaller than a human hair using scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM), and will help scientists push boundaries even further, in fields such as materials science, ICT, energy storage, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and diagnostics.
The €5.7 million NION UltraSTEM 200 microscope will be one of the top 10 microscopes in the world. It is housed in the Advanced Microscopy Laboratory (AML) located in the Trinity Technology and Enterprise Campus. The NION UltraSTEM microscope will give researchers the access to a tool that can investigate the very heart of materials, and discoveries using this microscope will help research and lead to innovations that benefit society.
From developing 2D materials for energy storage, to creating new materials to capture carbon dioxide to reduce greenhouse emissions and supporting the understanding of cells for more effective cancer treatment, this new state of the art equipment enables Irish scientists to examine atoms within materials in a way that has never been possible in Ireland.
“The development of new sophisticated materials requires a deep understanding of their structure and properties. This new super powerful microscope lets Irish scientists examine how materials behave at a level a million times smaller than a human hair,” said Professor Valeria Nicolosi, principal investigator at AMBER.
“AMBER’s new instrument will enable industry and academic users to accelerate their innovations. This new pioneering equipment will allow us to provide opportunities for new kinds of experiments. We anticipate scientists to travel from all over Europe to use it, and some have started already,” she added.
The microscope is designed for stability (it will move no more than half a millimeter in 100 years, or 2000 times slower than continental drift) and has been installed in a very special room that will only allow for 0.1°C/hr fluctuation.
The way the NION UltraSTEM microscope works is by scanning a beam that has been focused down to the size of an atom, across a sample, providing chemical information on the sample at the same time. Although scanning transmission electron microscopy has been used as a technique for some years, detailed imaging of atoms was previously impossible due to defects affecting all lenses.
This microscope surpasses the abilities of traditional STEMs through its inbuilt computer-controlled system that corrects these defects, much in the same way that glasses correct for vision problems.
“The arrival of NION, one of only 10 in the world is a significant game changer for scientific research in Ireland and beyond. This new tool is the equivalent of a Formula 1 car amongst other aberration-corrected microscopes, said Professor Michael Morris, AMBER director.
“Ultimately the NION allows for the precision at which some new materials can be produced requiring sensitivities beyond the reach of most laboratories. This will give researchers access to a tool that can explore and investigate materials in a way not done before in Ireland, discoveries made using the NION will lead to innovations that will have real impact for our society.”
The Advanced Microscopy Laboratory (AML) houses state of the art equipment, designed to meet the needs for advanced manufacturing and materials research, whether for academic or material purposes.
The AML with the addition of the NION UltraSTEM, now contains a suite of instruments that covers the entire resolution range from transmission electron microscopy to scanning electron and ion beam microscopes for surface imaging and analysis. The AML is open to all academic and industrial users, both nationally and internationally.