Transmission Electron Microscopy employing Linacs.


Physicists redesign an enormous and costly imaging device to make it smaller and cheaper.

After decades of attempts, scientists have developed a compact version of a powerful microscope — opening the door to wider use of the devices, which typically occupy an entire building.

High-voltage transmission electron microscopes (HVTEMs) send high-energy electrons through a sample, revealing the sample’s structure at extremely fine resolution. But the setup required to produce this voltage is so bulky that few HVTEMs have been built.

Takumi Sannomiya at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, Yukinori Nagatani at the National Institute for Physiological Sciences in Okazaki, Japan, and their colleagues created an HVTEM that can be mounted in a single room. To generate the pulse, a pair of deflector devices ‘chops’ a short bunch of electrons from a continuous beam. A compact particle accelerator boosts the electrons to energies of up to 500 kilovolts before they strike the sample.

A decelerator then slows the electrons carrying the image. This allows the authors’ device to incorporate a relatively inexpensive optical system from a low-voltage transmission electron microscope.

The resulting instrument can resolve features less than one nanometre in size in a mineral’s lattice structure.

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