atomic-scale microscopy (2)

Mirror, Mirror...


Various views of a 3D-printed object are captured by a single camera using a dome-shaped array of mirrors. Left: The raw image. Right: closeups of some of the individual views. (Image: Sanha Cheong, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

Topics: Applied Physics, Atomic-Scale Microscopy, Materials Science, Optics

(Nanowerk News) When it goes online, the MAGIS-100 experiment at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and its successors will explore the nature of gravitational waves and search for certain kinds of wavelike dark matter. But first, researchers need to figure out something pretty basic: how to get good photographs of the clouds of atoms at the heart of their experiment.

Researchers at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory realized that task would be perhaps the ultimate exercise in ultra-low light photography.

But a SLAC team that included Stanford graduate students Sanha Cheong and Murtaza Safdari, SLAC Professor Ariel Schwartzman, and SLAC scientists Michael Kagan, Sean Gasiorowski, Maxime Vandegar, and Joseph Frish found a simple way to do it: mirrors. By arranging mirrors in a dome-like configuration around an object, they can reflect more light towards the camera and image multiple sides of an object simultaneously.

And, the team reports in the Journal of Instrumentation ("Novel light field imaging device with an enhanced light collection for cold atom clouds"), that there's an additional benefit. Because the camera now gathers views of an object taken from many different angles, the system is an example of “light-field imaging”, which captures not just the intensity of light but also which direction light rays travel. As a result, the mirror system can help researchers build a three-dimensional model of an object, such as an atom cloud.

How do you take a better image of atom clouds? Mirrors - lots of mirrors, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

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The Power of ASM...



Topics: Alternate Energy, Applied Physics, Atomic-Scale Microscopy, Nanotechnology




When Ondrej Krivanek first considered building a device to boost the resolution of electron microscopes, he asked about funding from the U.S. Department of Energy. “The response was not positive,” he says, laughing. He heard through the grapevine that the administrator who held the purse strings declared that the project would be funded “over his dead body.”     


“People just felt it was too complicated, and that nobody would ever make it work,” says Krivanek. But he tried anyway.  After all, he says, “If everyone expects you to fail, you can only exceed expectations.”


The correctors that Krivanek, Niklas Dellby, and other colleagues subsequently designed for the scanning transmission electron microscope did exceed expectations. They focus the microscope’s electron beam, which scans back and forth across the sample like a spotlight and make it possible to distinguish individual atoms and to conduct chemical analysis within a sample. For his pioneering efforts, Krivanek shared The Kavli Prize in nanoscience with the German scientists Harald Rose, Maximilian Haider, and Knut Urban, who independently developed correctors for conventional transmission electron microscopes, in which a broad stationary beam illuminates the entire sample at once.


Electron microscopes, invented in 1931, long-promised unprecedented clarity, and in theory could resolve objects a hundredth the size of an atom. But in practice, they rarely get close because the electromagnetic lenses they use to focus electrons deflected them in ways that distorted and blurred the resulting images.


The aberration correctors designed by both Krivanek’s team and the German scientists deploy a series of electromagnetic fields, applied in multiple planes and different directions, to redirect and focus wayward electrons. “Modern correctors contain more than 100 optical elements and have software that automatically quantifies and fixes 25 different types of aberrations,” says Krivanek, who co-founded a company called Nion to develop and commercialize the technology.


That level of fine-tuning allows microscopists to fix their sights on some important pursuits, such as producing smaller and more energy-efficient computers, analyzing biological samples without incinerating them, and being able to detect hydrogen, the lightest element, and a potential clean-burning fuel.


The Vast Potential of Atomic-Scale Microscopy, Ondrej Krivanek, Scientific American



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