'We Will Rock Your Gold Atoms!' - New Electron Microscope Laughs At Rock Music

Berkeley (CA) - Electron microscopes are great for viewing atomic details, but don't you just hate it when nearby scientists start blaring Queen's 'We Will Rock You'? Well the researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory were fed up with rock music shaking up their atoms and have developed a new microscope that can maintain stability under intense vibration. They even made a video to prove it.

Lawrence Berkeley National Lab's video of gold atoms shaking to 'We Will Rock You'

The new TEAM microscope (short for Transmission Electron Aberration-corrected Microscope) is a joint effort by the folks at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Argonne National Lab, Oak Ridge National Lab and the University of Illinois. Two private companies, FEI of Portland and CEOS of Heidelberg Germany also helped out.

Like other electron microscopes, the TEAM scope blasts atoms with a stream of electronics. However, researchers have greatly sharpened the images thanks to spherical aberration correction which correctly focuses the incoming and outgoing beams into a single point. This allows the microscope to see detail down to half an angstrom or less than the diameter of a single hydrogen atom.

Uli Dahmen, the director of the TEAM Project adds, "The signal-to-noise ratio is so good that you can adjust focus atom by atom, with enough sensitivity to obtain information about the three-dimensional atomic structure of a single nanoparticle."

Another secret to the TEAM's atom-scanning ability is a new and much more stable stage. The stage is where you put the samples to be scanned and the researchers have made it simpler (less moving parts) and more resistant to vibration. To prove the point, they filmed some gold atoms with the new microscope and then cranked up "We Will Rock You" in the lab. The sample was still easily seen, while gold atoms under the old microscope and stage vibrated into obscurity.

The TEAM microscope is still in testing phases at the Lawrence National Lab, but it should be available to outside scientists later this year. You can read the full Lawrence National Lab announcement here.