Tab Bamford, November 21, 2013

Big research can require looking at incredibly small things. Soon, the University of Minnesota will be able to examine the smallest materials in detail never seen before.

Minnesota will be the first in the world to install a new FEI Tecnai Femto ultrafast electron microscope (UEM).


The equipment will be installed this month in the University of Minnesota Shepherd Laboratories before moving to its permanent home at the new Gore Annex of Amundson Hall when construction is completed next year.

The new Tecnai Femto UEM is the first system to commercialize the patented ultrafast electron microscopy. With this new technology, researchers will be able to examine material changes in incredible detail. For example, this microscope will be able to show how both light and heat are absorbed in 4D at the atomic and molecular level.

These remarkable discoveries will be accomplished by employing technology pioneered by Nobel laureate Professor Ahmed Zewail at the California Institute of Technology. The microscope can visualize materials at the atomic and molecular scale over time spans measured in femtoseconds (one millionth of a billionth of a second) using a pulse of electrons instead of a continuous electron beam.

Researchers expect that the technology will enable them to conduct fundamental research on the structure and dynamics of matter that could lead to new solutions in energy, medicine, and digital technologies.