University of Illinois Gets New Microscope

CHICAGO, March 30 (UPI) — The University of Illinois at Chicago says it will become the first university in the world to have one of a new generation of electron microscopes.

University officials said the new “aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscope,” nicknamed STEM, will provide views of up to three times the sharpness of existing electron microscopes.

Assistant Professor Robert Klie was awarded a $2 million National Science Foundation grant to acquire the sophisticated instrument that will allow scientists see individual atoms, helping them better understand how materials function.

“By improving the resolution we can decrease the blurring, so we’ll see atoms that were previously indistinguishable,” said Klie, who previously worked with a comparable instrument at the Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Unlike optical microscopes that use visible light to illuminate a sample, STEM views samples using a carefully controlled beam of electrons accelerated to nearly the speed of light, Klie said. With aberration correction, the STEM will provide sharper images and have reduced electron energy blur, which improves color distinction.

“With the aberration correctors, you can correct for the decreased resolution of slower electrons and still get the atomic resolution, even at these low acceleration voltages,” Klie said.

The new instrument will mark the first significant upgrade to the university’s electron microscopy facility in more than a decade, giving students unparalleled training opportunities, Klie said.

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