Spotlight: Demand drives microscopy developments

Materials World magazine
4 Aug 2012

An increasing number of industries working in minute detail are leading manufacturers to improve the microscopy field and make it more accessible.

Shrinking computer technology and growing demand for nanoscale technology is increasing the demand for microscopy equipment. Computer chips now require connections just a couple of atoms wide, and our understanding of material properties is increasingly reliant on their sub-atomic structure. The number of industries requiring microscopic detail is escalating, and producers of microscopy equipment are developing their products to meet these new demands.

As the range of professionals requiring microscopy equipment is no longer limited to scientists, companies are striving to make systems more accessible without compromising on accuracy. Olympus’ DSX range of opto-digital microscopes is easy even for non-experts to use, yet still powerful enough to meet technological demands. The system provides intuitive image analysis, quickly selecting the best optical techniques without the need for expertise. This feature will also reduce the need for experts to carry out time-consuming adjustments. Those working in the automotives, metallography, geology, fibre structure and small components sectors will all benefit from these features.

JEOL has developed a MagTECH electron microscope for use at the University of Glasgow, UK. The new microscope is one of a several powerful microscopes installed worldwide, but has been specially customised for the university. It will be used to view nanoscale events in magnetic materials in greater resolution than has previously been possible. This research will have implications for steel manufacturing, computer chip production and sensor applications.

The ways in which we are able to view images obtained through microscopy are also improving. Toshiba and ISee3D have worked together to create a microscopy system that can produce detailed 3D images of highly magnified objects. Using single-lens technology, the system produces carefully aligned images that can be viewed in high definition without the eyestrain usually associated with 3D microscopy.

Andor Technology’s Revolution XD system also improves image analysis, offering significant improvements in live cell high-speed imaging. The system includes laser combiners and targeted illumination devices that can be tailored to individual research needs. This will aid all projects involving live cells, including calcium imaging, stem cell research and cell division.

Linkam Scientific Instruments’ LTS420 temperature-controlled microscopy equipment offers an expanded temperature range of -196°C to 420°C, allowing researchers to observe the structures of complex molecules. The range was used at the University of Leeds, UK, to observe and then grow egg-white enzymes as part of breakthrough research into crystal growth. The system includes a large temperature sensor embedded close to the surface for accurate measurements, and a lid to allow for liquids to be heated without evaporation.

With demand from non-experts driving improvements such as these, the increased prevalence of microscopy looks set to improve equipment for specialists as well.