FEI has announced that it has entered into an agreement with Germany's University of Ulm and Heidelberg-based CEOS GmbH to develop a sub-Ǻngström low-voltage electron microscope, in the frame of Uni-Ulm's SALVE project.
The multi-year collaboration will involve the planned development of a dedicated aberration-corrected transmission electron microscope (TEM) that is capable of imaging radiation-sensitive materials, such as two-dimensional (2D) and organic samples, and selected molecules, with molecular or even atomic-scale resolution. The TEM is also expected to provide spectroscopic information at very low acceleration voltages.
"Current-generation TEMs typically operate at high voltages of up to 300kV, which provides limited contrast and destroys radiation-sensitive samples before they can be imaged," states Trisha Rice, vice president and general manager of Materials Science at FEI. "The SALVE project is focused on designing a TEM that can operate at accelerating voltages as low as 20kV, enabling it to provide new structural and spectroscopic information of samples, which previously could not be imaged because they would be destroyed at the higher voltages."
CEOS, which has expertise in corrected electron optical systems, is focused on developing new optimized corrector technology to compensate for the chromatic and spherical aberration at low voltages. FEI will be developing the TEM system itself, which will be based on a Titan™ 80-300 TEM platform, one of the world's first and most powerful commercial aberration-corrected microscopes. While the University of Ulm is working on application-related development, including sample preparation methods and the theory of imaging with low-energetic electrons.
"The SALVE project, financially supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts, Baden Württemberg, Germany, started in 2008 and progress has been made," states the project leader, Professor Ute Kaiser, Electron Microscopy Group of Materials Science, University of Ulm. "We greatly appreciate that FEI has stepped in to build on these developments and bring the SALVE project to its final phase. Our keys to success is the ability to correct optical aberrations, the stability of the microscope platform, and the progress in sample preparation and contrast interpretation. As scientists, we hardly can wait to operate the machine and to see what kinds of ground-breaking discoveries we might possibly be able to achieve."
Prof. Max Haider, CEOS, adds, "The SALVE project involves the use of low accelerating voltages, which have been rarely used in electron microscopes to date. We have had great success with our spherical aberration correctors on FEI's Titan platform, and we would like to extend that capability to correct the chromatic aberration that dominates at low voltages. This new microscope could open up entirely new fields in materials science, which involve investigating materials that have been impossible to study with existing microscope technology."