UK unveils one of the world's most powerful microscopes


Rebecca Pool

Thursday, February 19, 2015 - 21:15
Image: HAADF image  of the interface between Nickel Disilicide (top) and Silicon (bottom) produced by a Cs-corrected STEM at SuperSTEM. [Ufalke]
UK researchers have rolled out a £3.7 million STEM in a bid to push back the boundaries of research in advanced materials, healthcare, power generation and more.
Just one of only three such instruments in the world and the first outside the US, the Nion Hermes STEM is sited at SuperSTEM, the Daresbury-based National Facility for Aberration Corrected STEM set up by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research.
The latest microscope joins the facility's existing SuperSTEM microscopes, the VG HB 501 with Mark II Nion Cs  corrector and the Nion SuperSTEM 100.
The instruments can analyse single atoms and columns of atoms using STEM and electron energy loss spectroscopy (EELS). 
The Nion Hermes UltraSTEM 100 has 5th order aberration correction, a 2 Å electron probe mode with >0.5 nA current for rapid atomic-scale EELS mapping as well as a nano-diffraction mode.
A silicon drift EDS detector has also been installed for chemical analysis using X-ray spectroscopy. 
SuperSTEM is supported by a network of collaborating Universities: Leeds, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester and Oxford.
Together these organisation provide extensive supporting expertise in the application of analytical electron microscopy to a broad variety of samples ranging from advanced materials to geological and even biological materials.
The consortium also provides access to complementary electron microscopy and sample preparation techniques for the benefit of user project.
As Minister for Universities, Science and Cities, Greg Clark, says: "The UK is a world leader in the development and application of STEM techniques, and this new super-powerful microscope will ensure we remain world-class."
"From developing new materials for space travel to creating a better, cheaper treatment for anaemia, this new super-powerful microscope lets UK scientists examine how materials behave at a level a million times smaller than a human hair," he adds. "This exciting research will help lead to breakthroughs that will benefit not only our health but the environment too."
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