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U Ulm Focuses in on Low-Voltage Transmission Electron Microscopy

The University of Ulm in Germany has entered a joint research project with two German companies to take on the challenge of creating a new generation of microscopes. The university, along with Carl Zeiss SMT, which produces optical and particle-beam based inspection, analysis, and measuring systems, and CEOS GmbH, which produces correction systems for high resolution electron microscopy, has begun a five-year project to develop a low-voltage transmission electron microscope (TEM).

The joint project goes by the name SALVE, which stands for Sub-Angstrom Low Voltage Electron microscopy. The objective is to develop TEMs that will image samples with atomic resolution using relatively low accelerating voltage, as compared to the current generation of medium-voltage TEMs that destroy radiation-sensitive samples before useable images can be recorded.

Currently, achieving the desired resolution requires special, theoretical correctors that help to correct image aberrations in order to use the information of all interacting electrons. Although those correctors have been described theoretically, they don't actually exist ... yet.

The task of building the correctors has been given to CEOS. Teams at the university will develop applications and examine methods of specimen preparation parallel to the development of the system at Carl Zeiss.

"This new high-performance microscope will enable us for the first time to image electron-beam-sensitive samples and monitor molecular processes that contribute to decoding chemical conversions," said professor Ute Kaiser. "Knowledge of these processes is vital for many areas of application in materials sciences, biomedical research, and in semiconductor technology."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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