Why it matters: A non-invasive electron microscope could shed light on fundamental questions about life and matter, allowing researchers to observe molecules inside a living cell without disturbing them. If successful, such microscopes would surmount what Nobel laureate Dennis Gabor concluded in 1956 was the fundamental limitation of electron microscopy: "The destruction of the object by the exploring agent."
How it works: Traditional electron microscopes use a particle beam of electrons, instead of light, to image specimens. These beams offer extremely high resolution, up to 0.2 to 10 nanometers — 10 to 1,000 times greater than a traditional light microscope.
In contrast, with the new proposed quantum mechanical setup, electrons would not directly strike the object being imaged. Instead, an electron would flow around one of two rings, arranged one above the other. The rings would be close enough together that the electron could hop easily between them. However, if an object (such as a cell) were placed between the rings, it would prevent the electron from hopping, and the electron would be trapped in one ring.
This setup would scan one "pixel" of the specimen at a time, putting them all together to create the full image. Whenever the electron is trapped, the system would know that there is a dark pixel in that spot.
Next steps: Assistant Professor Mehmet Fatih Yanik, senior author of the paper, says he expects the work "will likely ignite experimental efforts around the world for its realization, with perhaps the first prototype appearing in five years or so."
Though technical challenges need to be overcome (such as preventing the charged electron from interacting with other metals in the microscope), Yanik believes that eventually such a microscope could achieve single-nanometer resolution. That level of resolution would allow scientists to view molecules such as enzymes and nucleic acids inside living cells.
Source: "Non-destructive Electron Microscopy and Interaction-free Quantum Measurements," William Putnan and Mehmet Fatih Yanik. Physical Review A — Rapid Communications, October issue.
Jen Hirsch | EurekAlert!
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Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
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The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.
Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...
Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...
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