Sunday, August 17, 2008

Super-resolution X-ray microscopy

New x-ray microscope

The novel super-resolution X-ray microscopy method visualizes details and line defects in the buried nanostructure.
Unveiling the buried secrets of the nanoworld, A novel super-resolution X-ray microscope developed by a team of researchers from the Paul Scherrer Institut (PSI) and EPFL in Switzerland combines the high penetration power of x-rays with high spatial resolution, making it possible for the first time to shed light on the detailed interior composition of semiconductor devices and cellular structures.

The first super-resolution images from this novel microscope were published online July 18, 2008 in the journal Science.

"Researchers have been working on such super-resolution microscopy concepts for electrons and x-rays for many years," says EPFL Professor and team leader Franz Pfeiffer.
"Only the construction of a dedicated multi-million Swiss-franc instrument at PSI's Swiss Light Source allowed us to achieve the stability that is necessary to implement our novel method in practice."

The new instrument uses a Megapixel Pilatus detector (whose big brother will be detecting collisions from CERN's Large Hadron Collider), which has excited the synchrotron community for its ability to count millions of single x-ray photons over a large area. This key feature makes it possible to record detailed diffraction patterns while the sample is raster-scanned through the focal spot of the beam. In contrast, conventional x-ray (or electron) scanning microscopes measure only the total transmitted intensity.

These diffraction data are then treated with an algorithm conceived by the Swiss team. "We developed an image reconstruction algorithm that deals with the several tens of thousands of diffraction images and combines them into one super-resolution x-ray micrograph," explains PSI researcher Pierre Thibault, first author on the publication. "In order to achieve images of the highest precision, the algorithm not only reconstructs the sample but also the exact shape of the light probe resulting from the x-ray beam."

Conventional electron scanning microscopes can provide high-resolution images, but usually only for the surface of the specimen, and the samples must be kept in vacuum. The Swiss team's new super-resolution microscope bypasses these requirements, meaning that scientists will now be able to look deeply into semiconductors or biological samples without altering them. It can be used to non-destructively characterize nanometer defects in buried semiconductor devices and to help improve the production and performance of future semiconductor devices with sub-hundred-nanometer features. A further very promising application of the technique is in high-resolution life science microscopy, where the penetration power of X-rays can be used to investigate embedded cells or sub-cellular structures. Finally, the approach can also be transferred to electron or visible laser light, and help in the design of new and better light and electron microscopes. ###

  • This release is available in French.
  • This release is available in German.
Contact: Franz Pfeiffer 41-763-201-045 Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

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Rosemary said...

Hi there. How have you been? I sure do wish that my science teachers weren't so dogmatic against God when I was in school. I loved science, but I couldn't take the preaching AGAINST my religion. Amazing, eh?

Do you believe that someday we will be able to see an actual atom? That would be fascinating! To see an electon, a neutron, and protons interacting with one another?! That would be some kind of a breakthrough.

Not that this isn't! This is wonderful. I am just more interested in the smallest part of the cell. Even as a child, I always wondered how to break apart an atom...until I learned that's how they makes bombs. Ewhh!

I guess my scientic questions could lead me to places that are better left unknown? Maybe if we could see how atoms interact in cancer cell vs. a normal cell, we could cure cancer. That is what I was more interested. I thought if we could split the atoms, we could cure some diseases. I was certainly wrong there. *sigh*

Have a wonderful day!

sookietex said...

hi Rosemary i've been great, so good to hear from you.

yes it's funny that anyone can imagine or see a conflict between science and religion it seem like one reinforces the other.

you weren't wrong, knowledge is power and the wisdom to use that power for the greater good is the divine.

your short sighted "teachers" and the misguided people who use it for their own purposes are the ones who are wrong.

your friend sookietex

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