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  • High-Res Microscope Takes 1st Images
Dec 2010
WARSAW. Poland, Dec. 14, 2010 — Tests of a new high-resolution electron microscope – dubbed the Titan Cubed 80-300 — were recently finished at the Institute of Physics of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IP PAS). One of the best facilities of its kind in Europe, the microscope allows for the comprehensive examination of materials used in nanotechnology and spintronics. Its regular work will start in January 2011.

First images taken by the Titan Cubed 80-300. False coloring was used. (Photos: IP PAS)

The Titan Cubed 80-300 has been set on work at the IP PAS after four months of tests and installation. This scientific facility enables quick and accurate characterization of semiconductor structures used in the production of lasers and diodes and all electronic devices based on nanostructures and quantum effects. “Electron microscopy [has] been the subject of our interest for more than 35 years. Titan guarantees to carry on our investigation on the highest world level,” said Leszek Sirko, scientific director of IP PAS.

High-resolution transmission electron microscopy is an invaluable technique to study the nanoscale properties of crystalline materials such as semiconductors and metals. At these small scales, individual atoms and structure defects can be imaged.

The high-resolution electron microscope Titan Cubed 80-300 installed at the Institute of Physics of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw.

“[Such] small objects we are not able to see by use of visible light,” said Kamil Sobczak, a Ph.D. student at the electron microscopy group at IP PAS. Instead of beam of light, a beam of electrons is used to “illuminate” the investigated sample. The microscope comprises a vertical column, on top of which the electron gun is placed. After passing through the sample, the transmitted electron beam comes through a system of lenses, forming a sample’s image magnified millions times.

The investigated sample should be very thin (its thickness should not exceed 1 μm) so special techniques of its preparation must be used. An additional device for focused-ions milling has been purchased, which allows for very efficient sample thinning. “At present, sample preparation takes us about one week (with standard techniques). By use of a focused-ion beam, a sample will be ready after a few hours,” said Alicja Szczepanska, technologist in the electron microscopy group.

Piotr Dluzewski in the control room of the Titan Cubed 80-300 at the Institute of Physics of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

The new microscope additionally is equipped with an electron energy loss spectrometer, and it gives the possibility of holographic imaging and investigation in liquid nitrogen temperatures. The facility has electronic optics of very high quality, very stable accelerating voltage and very sensitive image detectors. Unique qualities of the microscope allows it to follow processes undergoing in investigated sample, for example when its temperature changes. Such information could have much practical value for technologists.

“On the basis of results of microscopic investigations, we will be able to inform technologists which color of light can be emitted by a selected part of investigated device,” said Piotr Dluzewski, head of the electron microscopy group. The new microscope will be used by many scientific groups from Poland and abroad and many commercial companies. It also will give educational possibilities for young scientists and students.

The project “Analytical High-Resolution Electron Microscope for Nanoscience, Nanotechnology and Spintronics” has been granted by the European Union in frame of the “Innovative Economy” operational program to support the infrastructure of leading scientific institutions. A European grant covers 85 percent of costs; the rest was covered by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of Poland.

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The use of atoms, molecules and molecular-scale structures to enhance existing technology and develop new materials and devices. The goal of this technology is to manipulate atomic and molecular particles to create devices that are thousands of times smaller and faster than those of the current microtechnologies.
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