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Success in Visualization of Calcium Atoms

Development of New Type of Electron Microscope Enabling Analysis of Single Molecules/Atoms

Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST)
National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology
National Institute for Materials Science
JEOL, Ltd.

As part of JST's Targeted Basic Research Programs, a research team led by Dr. Kazutomo Suenaga of the Nanotube Research Center, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) developed an electron microscope which enables analysis of organic molecules, biomolecules, and other molecular/atomic level objects.

Abstract

As part of JST’s Targeted Basic Research Programs, a research team led by Dr. Kazutomo Suenaga of the Nanotube Research Center, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) developed an electron microscope which enables analysis of organic molecules, biomolecules, and other molecular/atomic level objects.
This new type of electron microscope dramatically improves elemental analysis technology for single molecules and single atoms, and in particular, realized elemental analysis of single atoms of calcium. Concretely, by conceiving a completely new spherical aberration correction mechanism (delta-type aberration correction mechanism) and incorporating this in the newly-developed instrument, the research team succeeded in reducing the acceleration voltage of the electron microscope from the conventional 200-1000 kilovolts (kV) to 30-60kV.
The development of this technology enables observation of individual organic molecules and biomolecules, which had been difficult until now because these molecules were easily destroyed by high voltage electron beams. In particular, this technology enables detection of light elements such as calcium at the single atom level. Although these elements are important in biomaterials, observation at this level had been impossible with the conventional technology.
This research was carried out jointly with Dr. Koji Kimoto, a Senior Researcher in the Advanced Nano Characterization Center at the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) and Dr. Toshikatsu Kaneyama, a Team Leader in the Electron Optics Division of JOEL, Ltd.

These research results (title:“Visualizing and identifying single atoms using electron energy-loss spectroscopy with low accelerating voltage”)were published in the online bulletin of the English science journal “Nature Chemistry” on July 5, 2009 (UK time).


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