Washington: Forget X-ray glasses. Now, a new
microscope has been developed by scientists which they say can
penetrate deep within materials and see details as small as a
billionth of a meter without even using a lens.
The new microscope, developed by physicists at University
of California, San Diego, uses a powerful computer programme
to convert patterns from X-rays bouncing off materials into
images of objects as small as a one nanometer across, on the
scale of a few atoms.
Unlike Superman`s X-ray vision, which allows him to look
through walls to see the bad guys beyond, the new technology
could be used to look at different elements inside a material,
or to image viruses, cells and tissue in great detail, study
researcher Oleg Shpyrko said.
But one of the most important applications, Shpyrko said,
is in nano-sized engineering.
"We can make things at nanoscale, but we can`t see them
very well. So our paper pushes the characterisation forward,"
he was quoted as saying.
Astronomers use similar programmes to remove distortions
from their images and even to sharpen the pictures sent back
by the Hubble telescope, but the nanovision technique is new.
The computer programme essentially unscrambles a complex
pattern from X-rays bouncing off an object to form an image,
the researchers reported in the journal Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences.
To test the programme, the researchers created a layered
film made of the elements iron and gadolinium. Combined, the
two magnetic materials crinkle into a series of magnetic
domains that look like a maze or the ridges of fingerprints.
By seeing and understanding how the materials
self-assemble, you could create nanoproduction processes that
are much more efficient than the current method of building
materials atom-by-atom, Shpyrko said.
Understanding magnetic materials at the nanoscale could
lead to better magnetic data storage, Shpyrko said.
The researchers, who conducted the study with funding
from the US Department of Energy, are also interested in
solving other tiny mysteries with big implications.
For example, Shpyrko said, batteries degrade over time,
because the interface between the battery`s electrodes and
No one understands exactly how this happens or how to fix
it, he said, and it`s tough to see inside the interface to
diagnose the problem. X-ray nanovision could change that.
"With this microscope, we can actually look at this very
difficult interface," Shpyrko said.
First Published: Sunday, August 21, 2011, 14:15