Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Cell Culture
Scientific Community
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

New Kind of Microscope uses Neutrons

Published: Friday, October 04, 2013
Last Updated: Friday, October 04, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Device could open up new areas of research on materials and biological samples at tiny scales.

Researchers at MIT, working with partners at NASA, have developed a new concept for a microscope that would use neutrons — subatomic particles with no electrical charge — instead of beams of light or electrons to create high-resolution images.

Among other features, neutron-based instruments have the ability to probe inside metal objects — such as fuel cells, batteries, and engines, even when in use — to learn details of their internal structure. Neutron instruments are also uniquely sensitive to magnetic properties and to lighter elements that are important in biological materials.

The new concept has been outlined in a series of research papers this year, including one published this week in Nature Communications by MIT postdoc Dazhi Liu, research scientist Boris Khaykovich, professor David Moncton, and four others.

Moncton, an adjunct professor of physics and director of MIT’s Nuclear Reactor Laboratory, says that Khaykovich first proposed the idea of adapting a 60-year-old concept for a way of focusing X-rays using mirrors to the challenge of building a high-performing neutron microscope. Until now, most neutron instruments have been akin to pinhole cameras: crude imaging systems that simply let light through a tiny opening. Without efficient optical components, such devices produce weak images with poor resolution.

Beyond the pinhole

“For neutrons, there have been no high-quality focusing devices,” Moncton says. “Essentially all of the neutron instruments developed over a half-century are effectively pinhole cameras.” But with this new advance, he says, “We are turning the field of neutron imaging from the era of pinhole cameras to an era of genuine optics.”

“The new mirror device acts like the image-forming lens of an optical microscope,” Liu adds.

Because neutrons interact only minimally with matter, it’s difficult to focus beams of them to create a telescope or microscope. But a basic concept was proposed, for X-rays, by Hans Wolter in 1952 and later developed, under the auspices of NASA, for telescopes such as the orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory (which was designed and is managed by scientists at MIT). Neutron beams interact weakly, much like X-rays, and can be focused by a similar optical system.

It’s well known that light can be reflected by normally nonreflective surfaces, so long as it strikes that surface at a shallow angle; this is the basic physics of a desert mirage. Using the same principle, mirrors with certain coatings can reflect neutrons at shallow angles.

A sharper, smaller device

The actual instrument uses several reflective cylinders nested one inside the other, so as to increase the surface area available for reflection. The resulting device could improve the performance of existing neutron imaging systems by a factor of about 50, the researchers say — allowing for much sharper images, much smaller instruments, or both.

The team initially designed and optimized the concept digitally, then fabricated a small test instrument as a proof-of-principle and demonstrated its performance using a neutron beam facility at MIT’s Nuclear Reactor Laboratory. Later work, requiring a different spectrum of neutron energies, was carried out at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Such a new instrument could be used to observe and characterize many kinds of materials and biological samples; other nonimaging methods that exploit the scattering of neutrons might benefit as well. Because the neutron beams are relatively low-energy, they are “a much more sensitive scattering probe,” Moncton says, for phenomena such as “how atoms or magnetic moments move in a material.”

The researchers next plan to build an optimized neutron-microscopy system in collaboration with NIST, which already has a major neutron-beam research facility. This new instrument is expected to cost a few million dollars.

Moncton points out that a recent major advance in the field was the construction of a $1.4 billion facility that provides a tenfold increase in neutron flux. “Given the cost of producing the neutron beams, it is essential to equip them with the most efficient optics possible,” he says.

Roger Pynn, a materials scientist at the University of California at Santa Barbara who was not involved in this research, says, “I expect it to lead to a number of breakthroughs in neutron imaging. … It offers the potential for some really new applications of neutron scattering — something that we haven’t seen for quite a while.”


Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 3,500+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 5,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Biopharmaceuticals on Demand
Portable production system would use microbes for manufacturing small amounts of vaccines and therapeutics.
Monday, August 01, 2016
New Device can Study Electric Field Cancer Therapy
Microfluidic device allows study of electric field cancer therapy through low-intensity fields, preventing malignant cells spreading.
Friday, July 08, 2016
Capturing Cell Growth in 3-D
Spinout’s microfluidics device better models how cancer and other cells interact in the body.
Monday, August 17, 2015
Two MIT Professors Win Prestigious Wolf Prize
Michael Artin and Robert Langer honored for groundbreaking work in mathematics and chemistry.
Wednesday, January 09, 2013
Precisely Engineering 3-D Brain Tissues
New design technique could enable personalized medicine, studies of brain wiring.
Thursday, November 29, 2012
Tracking Stem Cell Reprogramming
Biologists reveal genes key to development of pluripotency, in single cells.
Friday, September 14, 2012
Picking Apart the Cell’s Most Complex Structure
One of the most important structures in a cell is the nuclear pore complex — a tiny yet complicated channel through which information flows in and out of the cell’s nucleus, directing all other cell activity.
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Scientific News
Stem Cells Growing 3D Lung-in-a-Dish
Researchers have created 3D lung-like tissue from lung-derived stem cells. The tissue can be used to study lung diseases.
Reprogramming Lymph Nodes to Fight MS
Bioengineers work to reprogram lymph node function to fight multiple sclerosis.
Puttng Cells Through Their Paces
An obstacle course for human lung cells could be the answer for better testing the effectiveness of potential new drugs.
Inherited Heart Condition Breakthrough
Using stem cells, scientists have created a specific heart condition model, yeilding insights into unexpected disease mechanisms.
Genetic Tug of War Before Cells Decide Fate
Researchers report that as developing blood cells are triggered by genetic signals firing on and off, a 'tug of war' occurs.
Origin of Cultured Cells: Not Where You Think
Study shows cultured cells from decades-old cell line does not originate from the patient it was claimed to derive from.
Worms Point Way Toward Viral Strategies
Rice University wins NIH grant to study how nematodes handle gastrointestinal viruses.
Hope for Zika Treatment Found in Drug Screening
Johns Hopkins researchers join collaborative group to screen 6,000 existing drugs in hopes of finding treatments for Zika Virus infection.
Adoption of Three Dimensional Culture Models May Save Lives
Physiologically relevant cell models can detect chronic hepatotoxicity early in the drug discovery process.
Growing Noroviruses in the Lab
Human noroviruses – the leading viral cause of acute diarrhea around the world – have been difficult to study because scientists had not found a way to grow them in the lab.
SELECTBIO

SELECTBIO Market Reports
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
3,500+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
5,000+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!