New Microscope from MIT Engineers Can Scan 2,000 Times Faster Than Commercial Models

New Microscope from MIT Engineers Can Scan 2,000 Times Faster Than Commercial Models

Atomic Force Microscopes (AFMs) are specifically designed to capture images of structures as small as a fraction of a nanometer. But scanning these images was very tough. Now MIT engineers have designed an AFM that scans images 2,000 times faster than available models.

Using this high-speed instrument, the team was able to produce images of chemical processes that are taking place at the nanoscale, at a rate that is close to real-time video.

In demonstration of the new instrument and its capabilities, the researchers scanned a 70- by-70-micron sample of calcite as it was first immersed in deionized water and later exposed to sulfuric acid.

The team saw the acid destroying the calcite, and increasing existing nanometer-sized pits in the material that quickly merged and led slowly to removal of calcite along the material's crystal pattern, within a period of several seconds.

Kamal Youcef-Toumi, a professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, said in a statement that the instrument’s sensitivity and speed will allow the scientists to observe atomic-sized processes play out as high-resolution movies.

Youcef-Toumi, said, “People can see, for example, condensation, nucleation, dissolution, or deposition of material, and how these happen in real-time -- things that people have never seen before.

To observe these details is very interesting and it will open great opportunities to explore the entire world at nanoscale.

All deigns and images of the group are based on the PhD work of Iman Soltani Bozchalooi, now a postdoc in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. All of this data is published in the journal Ultramicroscopy.

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