Real-Time 3D Electron Microscopy

A scanning electron microscope (SEM) able to show a three-dimensional image in real-time has been developed by researchers from Hitachi High-Technologies Corp, Eizo Nanao Corp, Niigata University and Shizuoka University. The device will be used to analyze the structure of both inorganic and organic materials.


(Use your red/blue glasses to see this image)

For obtaining three-dimensional images by using normal SEMs, it is necessary to synthesize still images equivalent to images seen by the right and left eyes (parallax images) after taking those images from different angles by tilting the stage and to observe them with red/blue glasses, etc. However, with this method, it takes time to obtain and make adjustment to parallax images, and it is not possible to observe the SEM image of a specimen in real time.

This time, the research group developed a technology to scan a specimen at high speeds while switching the angle of an electron beam directed at a specimen and succeeded in instantly obtaining right and left parallax images. Specifically, an electron beam is slanted by the converging effect of the electromagnetic lens.

Though the aberration caused by slanting an electron beam lowers resolution, the group developed a new electro-optical system and a scan control technology for electron beam and applied them for the SEM.

The control of the direction of electron beam's tilt is conducted by using a special magnet coil and switching among left-leaning scanning, normal scanning, right-leaning scanning, etc for each line and frame. As a result, the research group realized a high scanning speed of 33ms/frame and real-time 3D observation.

Science fiction fans have been waiting for this view for more than a century. In his 1895 story The Crack of Doom, Robert Cromie wrote about an amazing tool that allowed a real-time, three-dimensional view of the atoms themselves:

In appearance, this marvel of micrology, so far as the eye-piece and upper portions went, was like an ordinary microscope, but its magnifying power was to me unbelievable. It magnified the object under examination many thousand times more than the most powerful microscope in the world.

I looked through the upper lens, and saw a small globe suspended in the middle of a tiny chamber filled with soft blue light, or transparent material. Circling round this globe four other spheres revolved in orbits, some almost circular, some elliptical, some parabolic.
(Read more about Cromie's atomic microscopy)

From Nikkei via MedGadget.

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