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World’s most powerful microscope is ready for research


Victoria, BC – What the University of Victoria says is the world’s most powerful microscope – which resides in a specially constructed room at the university – has been fully assembled and tested, and is ready for scientific research. 

The seven-tonne, 4.5-metre tall scanning transmission electron holography microscope (STEHM), the first such microscope of its type in the world, came to the university in parts last year. A team from Hitachi, which constructed the ultra high-resolution, ultra-stable instrument, spent one year painstakingly assembling the STEHM in a carefully controlled lab in the university’s Bob Wright Centre.

 

The wait was worth it, says Rodney Herring, a professor of mechanical engineering and director of UVic’s Advanced Microscopy Facility.

 

With assembly complete, Herring and his team were recently able to test the microscope. They say the results are the start of a new era in scientific research.

 

“The STEHM will be used by local, regional, national and international scientists and engineers for a plethora of research projects relevant to the advancement of mankind,” says Herring. “This enables us to see the unseen world.”

 

He viewed gold atoms through the microscope at a resolution of 35 picometres. One picometre is a trillionth of a metre. This resolution is much better than the previous best image with 49-picometre resolution taken at the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory in California, and is about 20 million times human sight.

 

The STEHM allows researchers to see the atoms in a manner never before possible. It has full analytical capabilities that can determine the types and number or elements present, and high-resolution cameras for collecting data.

 

It will be used by researchers of many science and engineering disciplines for projects requiring knowledge of small atomic scale structures (nanoscience) and nanotechnology. Dr. Vincenzo Grillo from the Istituto Nanoscienze Consiglio Nazionale Delle Ricerche in Modena was the first visiting researcher in late June.

 

The STEHM microscope is supported by $9.2 million in funding from the government of Canada through the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, the BC Knowledge Development Fund and UVic, as well as significant in-kind support from Hitachi.