London: The most powerful atom resolving microscope in the UK has been unveiled at the University of Cambridge.
The new electron microscope, which will enable scientists to view individual atoms in any material, was officially unveiled by the Minister for Universities and
Science, David Willetts.
The unique machine, the FEI Titan 3 Electron Microscope, enables scientists to view and analyse structures at a resolution of 0.7 Angstrom - less than one-half the size of a carbon atom and over a million times smaller than the width of a human hair, a university release said.
The microscope`s impressive power will facilitate pioneering research previously restricted by scientists` inability to view and analyse structures at such a small
One of the research projects which will be using the new microscope is an investigation into diseases which can be characterised by the deposition of plaques, including
Alzheimer`s and Parkinson`s.
These plaques consist of rods as strong as steel called `nanowires` which are made up of proteins that have misfolded.
As they are only a few nanometres in diameter, they are exceptionally difficult to study and are too small to be seen using MRI scans or X-rays.
Researchers will also be using the microscope to study the next generation of lighting for our homes and offices.
These new lights will save substantial amounts of energy (possibly enabling the UK to close - or not build - eight large power stations) as well as reduce carbon
They will provide natural lighting, like sunlight, and could last for sixty years.
Another project will examine how to purify water in the developing world using special ultraviolet lights which kill all bacteria and viruses, an advance which could save
millions of lives.
The new UV lights are also likely to be used in the UK, being more effective and safer than adding chlorine to our water.
Willetts said: "Scientists working at the threshold of human discovery now have access to the UK`s most powerful microscope. By capturing the sharpest possible images of
individual atoms, researchers can swell their knowledge of how materials work to deliver far-reaching benefits for society, such as understanding what causes debilitating diseases like Alzheimer`s and Parkinson`s."
Prof Sir Colin Humphreys, Director of Research in the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy at the University of Cambridge, said: "This atom-resolving microscope
will be used to help solve some of the most important problems facing our world today: for example shortages of energy and drinkable water.
It will also be used in many collaborative projects with existing and emerging UK industries."