Trinity acquires one of world’s most powerful microscopes

‘Ferrari’ of microscopes can see objects a million times smaller than diameter of a hair

The image shows a sheet of molybdenum disulfide just one molecule thick.   This material has been suggested for a range of applications such as transistors, memory devices, solar cells and lithium ion batteries.

The image shows a sheet of molybdenum disulfide just one molecule thick. This material has been suggested for a range of applications such as transistors, memory devices, solar cells and lithium ion batteries.

 

Ireland now has one of the world’s top 10 most powerful microscopes that can see objects a million times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. It allows the scientists who will use it to see right down to the size of a single atom.

The €5.7 million instrument is installed at Amber, the materials science centre in Trinity College Dublin’s Crann Institute. Funding for the device comes from Science Foundation Ireland.

Scientists will travel to Dublin from all over Europe to use the device, said Prof Valeria Nicolosi of Amber who led the drive to acquire the microscope.

“It is the only microscope of this type in Europe. It is the Ferrari of electron microscopes,” said Prof Nicolosi who is a professor in Trinity’s school of chemistry.

“This microscope is capable of very very special things. Its lenses act like glasses. When you put on your glasses the images become very sharp and clear,” she said. “It allows us to look at materials, devices and everything we work with in technology with very special eyes.”

The device is installed at Trinity’s Advanced Microscopy Laboratory at the university’s Technology and Enterprise Campus, with installation charges bringing the full project costs to €7 million, she said.

To work properly the device must remain very stable and is built on a mount that will prevent it from shifting a half a millimetre in 100 years, Prof Nicolosi said.

It is possible to see individual atoms but seeing them also allows the researchers to say what element they are.

Scientists develop new materials but they also have to understand how the materials react. The microscope will allow them to watch materials and what their atoms are doing, she said.

Higher education institutions across Ireland and abroad will be able to rent time on the advanced machine.

“We have the first international user coming from Czech Republic the day after Wednesday’s launch,” she said.

Nion builds the instruments at their base near Seattle in the US.