Fastest electron detector ever unveiled


Rebecca Pool

Thursday, March 7, 2019 - 19:45
Image: A computer chip from the superfast 4D Camera. [Marilyn Chung/Berkeley Lab]
A new electron detector developed by researchers at Berkeley Lab can produce images on the timescale of microseconds, revealing atomic-scale details across much larger areas than was possible before.
Dubbed the 4D camera - for Dynamic Diffraction Direct Detector - the new device has been installed on the 'Transmission Electron Aberration-corrected Microscope 0.5' - TEAM 0.5 - at the Molecular Foundry, and is some 60 times faster than existing detectors..
"It is the fastest electron detector ever made,” claims Andrew Minor, National Center for Electron Microscopy facility director at the Molecular Foundry. “It opens up a new time regime to explore with high-resolution microscopy."
"No one has ever taken continuous movies at this time resolution using electron imaging," he adds. "There are all kinds of dynamics that might happen - we just don’t know because we’ve never been able to look at them before.”
A new detector – the 4D Camera – reaches a new frontier in speed.
Molecular Foundry researcher, Mary Scott, believes that the unique geometry of the new detector allows studies of both light and heavyweight elements in materials side by side.
“The reason you might want to perform one of these more complicated experiments would be to measure the positions of light elements, particularly in materials that might be really sensitive to the electron beam, such as like lithium in a battery material," she says. "And ideally you would be able to also precisely measure the positions of heavy elements in that same material.”
The TEAM 0.5 microscope has been upgraded with the 4D Camera, [Thor Swift/Berkeley Lab].
The detector will generate a whopping 4 terabytes of data per minute, which as Molecular Foundry researcher, Peter Ercius, points out, 'is equivalent to watching about 60,000 HD movies simultaneously'.
To transfer the data from the detector, networking architects at Berkeley Lab built a new network that connects the Molecular Foundry to the Cori supercomputer at Lab’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center.
"Camera data is transferred over about 100 fiber-optic connections into a high-speed ethernet connection that is about 1,000 times faster than the average home network," highlights Ian Johnson, from Berkeley Lab’s Engineering Division.
As Jim Ciston, Molecular Foundry researcher, adds: “We’ll actually capture every electron that comes through the sample as it’s scattered. Through this really large data set we’ll be able to perform ‘virtual’ experiments on the sample; we won’t have to go back and take new data from different imaging conditions.”
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