Most powerful microscope in the UK unveiled

September 10, 2010, University of Cambridge
Most powerful microscope in the UK unveiled

The most powerful atom resolving microscope in the UK was today revealed at the University of Cambridge. The new electron microscope, which will enable scientists to view individual atoms in any material, was officially unveiled by the Minister for Universities and Science, the Rt Hon David Willetts MP.

The unique machine, the FEI Titan 3 , enables scientists to view and analyse structures at a resolution of 0.7 Angstrom - less than one-half the size of a carbon atom and over a million times smaller than the width of a human hair.

The microscope's impressive power will facilitate pioneering research previously restricted by scientists' inability to view and analyse structures at such a small scale.

One of the research projects which will be using the new microscope is an investigation into diseases which can be characterised by the deposition of plaques, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. These plaques consist of rods as strong as steel called 'nanowires' which are made up of proteins that have misfolded. As they are only a few nanometres in diameter, they are exceptionally difficult to study and are too small to be seen using MRI scans or X-rays.

Researchers will also be using the microscope to study the next generation of lighting for our homes and offices. These new lights will save substantial amounts of energy (possibly enabling the UK to close - or not build - eight large power stations) as well as reduce carbon emissions. They will provide natural lighting, like sunlight, and could last for sixty years.

Another project will examine how to purify water in the developing world using special ultraviolet lights which kill all bacteria and viruses, an advance which could save millions of lives. The new UV lights are also likely to be used in the UK, being more effective and safer than adding chlorine to our water.

Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts, said: "Scientists working at the threshold of human discovery now have access to the UK's most powerful microscope. By capturing the sharpest possible images of individual atoms, researchers can swell their knowledge of how materials work to deliver far-reaching benefits for society, such as understanding what causes debilitating diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's."

The new is currently housed in the Nanoscience Centre.

Explore further: McMaster University unveils world's most advanced microscope

Related Stories

TEAM Project Achieves Microscopy Breakthrough

September 6, 2007

The highest-resolution images ever seen in (S)TEM electron microscopy have been recorded using a new instrument developed jointly by U.S. Department of Energy national laboratories, FEI Company and CEOS GmbH, in Heidelberg, ...

PICO and SALVE: Understanding the subatomic world better

December 18, 2008

Two new high-resolution transmission electron microscopes, co-financed by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation), are set to open up new opportunities for research in physics and materials science. ...

New microscope boost for UK nanotechnology research

December 15, 2004

A powerful new microscope, currently available only in three universities in Europe and the USA, will position Britain as a leading centre for nanomaterials, researchers announce today. The ultra-high performance analytical ...

ORNL microscope pushes back barrier of 'how small'

September 17, 2004

Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers, using a state- of-the-art microscope and new computerized imaging technology, have pushed back the barrier of how small we can see--to a record, atom-scale 0.6 angstrom. ORNL, a ...

Recommended for you

Magnesium magnificent for plasmonic applications

May 22, 2018

Rice University researchers have synthesized and isolated plasmonic magnesium nanoparticles that show all the promise of their gold, silver and aluminum cousins with none of the drawbacks.

Valves for tiny particles

May 22, 2018

Newly developed nanovalves allow the flow of individual nanoparticles in liquids to be controlled in tiny channels. This is of interest for lab-on-a-chip applications such as in materials science and biomedicine.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.