Media Contact: Fred Strohl

Powerful new microscope planned for ORNL


OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Nov. 16, 2000 — One of the most powerful microscopes in the world is planned for future use at the Department of Energy's (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

ORNL and the Japan Electron Optics Laboratory (JEOL) announced an agreement today to construct a new $3 million ultra-high resolution research electron microscope called the Aberration-Corrected Electron Microscope (ACEM). It will have the ability to provide images at a resolution of better than a single atomic diameter.

DOE provides funding for the microscope.

The ACEM, which will be located at ORNL's High Temperature Materials Laboratory (HTML), features a set of electron lenses that can correct distortions that occur in electromagnetic lenses. It will take advantage of the remote operation technology pioneered by ORNL's Materials Analysis User Center. This technology allows researchers to analyze material samples transmitted through a desktop computer halfway across the world.

Utilizing the ACEM, researchers will be able to achieve direct image resolution approaching 0.7 angstroms. An angstrom is a measurement of atomic dimension.

"This facility and its extraordinary resolution will contribute to the characterization and ultimate optimization of such fine scale structures and functional components," said Sid Diamond, program manager of DOE's Office of Heavy Vehicle Technologies.

Researchers will use the ACEM to study crystalline interfaces at the atomic level. Defects found in crystalline materials result in determining properties of materials. The ACEM will have an energy filter that can discern elements present in a sample by virtue of the rate of an electron's slowing down as it passes through the element.

"The filter will enable us to locate elements present in the sample to the level of single atomic columns," said Larry Allard of HTML.

A Z-contrast STEM electron microscope that has been operational at ORNL for many years will complement the ACEM research. HTML officials hope many users will continue to take advantage of ORNL's electron microscope program here or from their respective home bases.

ORNL officials hope to build an addition to the HTML that will be specially constructed to house the ACEM and other ultra-precision instruments, which require bedrock-solid foundations to thwart vibrations and a nearly total absence of magnetic fields that may interfere with the electron microscopes' imaging.

The ACEM is projected to be operational by 2003.


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