Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

'We're down to the atom size': Cornell researchers discover how to focus on tiniest of the very small

20.06.2006
If you need a good picture of a molecule, your first job is getting its atoms to pose for you, says John Silcox, Cornell's David E. Burr Professor of Engineering and an expert in the realm of the very tiny.

But atoms are not willing subjects. They jiggle furiously, defying any microscopist who tries to catch them at a standstill. Nor are they polite: The larger atoms in a molecule typically overshadow the smaller ones, making it impossible to view the little ones.


This image of a lattice crystal was captured by Cornell researchers using a scanning transmission electron microscope (STEM) at IBM. The yellow circles in the center of each pear-shaped molecule represent the stronger signal produced by a large atom; the red portions that make up the top of each pear shape show the weaker signal of the smaller atoms. The image allows researchers to see the orientation of the individual atoms within a crystal for the first time, thus giving researchers a vital tool for predicting the crystal's properties. A model of the molecular structure is superimposed on the image.

Now, though, researchers at Cornell have developed a technique to get a closer-than-ever look at individual atoms within crystal molecules -- allowing them, for the first time, to see the polarity, or physical alignment, of those constituent atoms and to get a view of the smaller atoms.

The research -- by Cornell postdoctoral associate K. Andre Mkhoyan, Silcox and colleagues at Cornell, and Philip Batson of IBM -- is described in the June 2 issue of Science.

With the new technique, researchers can better predict the physical properties of a crystal at every point -- an advance that offers potential improvements in lasers and other devices, particularly at the nanoscale, where the structure of an individual molecule can determine a device's behavior.

To get their new and improved view, Mkhoyan's team used a scanning transmission electron microscope (STEM) at IBM on samples of aluminum nitride, gallium nitride and other crystals with particular significance in nanotechnology research, in a chamber padded and shielded to reduce potentially atom-jiggling acoustic noise and electromagnetic radiation. Fitting the STEM with an aberration corrector (a focusing device) developed at Nion Co., they directed a 0.9 angstroms-wide electron beam at tiny crystal samples, collecting the scattered electrons on a ring-shaped detector and forming an image based on the resulting scatter pattern. (An angstrom is one hundred-millionth of a centimeter). Because larger atoms deflect electrons at a larger angle than small ones, the resulting data is relatively simple to interpret.

Used on a sample of aluminum nitride, the technique, called annular dark imaging, shows pear-shaped molecule columns with the larger aluminum atoms at the thicker end and the smaller nitrogen atoms at the narrower end. It is the first time the smaller atoms in such a structure have been caught in an image.

The key, said Silcox, is the narrowness of the scanning electron beam.

"We're down to the atom size, as opposed to the atom spacing," said Silcox. "We can start to see the light atom columns; we can characterize the crystal very nicely and precisely, at every place on the structure."

Mkhoyan said the inability to capture such images in the past has been a huge hurdle for nanotechnology researchers.

"The study and application of these lattice crystals are at the core of nanotechnology. Many papers are dedicated to synthesis and application of the nanoparticles -- quantum dots, rods, wires, you name it -- based on these materials," he said. "However, the performance of the devices is highly dependent on the structural quality of these nanoparticles.

"With our STEM annular dark field imaging, we come to the rescue," Mkhoyan added. "We can zoom in, pick up any region of the structure, and see how it behaves."

Blaine P. Friedlander Jr. | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.cornell.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht From rocks in Colorado, evidence of a 'chaotic solar system'
23.02.2017 | University of Wisconsin-Madison

nachricht Prediction: More gas-giants will be found orbiting Sun-like stars
22.02.2017 | Carnegie Institution for Science

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Safe glide at total engine failure with ELA-inside

On January 15, 2009, Chesley B. Sullenberger was celebrated world-wide: after the two engines had failed due to bird strike, he and his flight crew succeeded after a glide flight with an Airbus A320 in ditching on the Hudson River. All 155 people on board were saved.

On January 15, 2009, Chesley B. Sullenberger was celebrated world-wide: after the two engines had failed due to bird strike, he and his flight crew succeeded...

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New pop-up strategy inspired by cuts, not folds

27.02.2017 | Materials Sciences

Sandia uses confined nanoparticles to improve hydrogen storage materials performance

27.02.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

Decoding the genome's cryptic language

27.02.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>