60 seconds on...SuperSTEM

Materials World magazine
1 Apr 2015

What is it?

A facility in Daresbury, UK, hosting three advanced aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscopes that can see single atoms one millon times smaller than a human hair and can identify single atoms and atomic columns in a crystal.

Who is involved? 

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) with support from the universities of Leeds, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester and Oxford, and the Science and Technology Facilities Council. 

What inspired the work?

The EPSRC wanted to advance materials science research and development by creating a precise way in which new materials can be analysed. The facility’s microscopes are able to identify atoms using an instrument called a monochromator as well as observe bond strength patterns. 

What could it replace?

SuperSTEM examines atoms on a microscopic scale to study and identify what they are and how strongly they bond together. This will allow scientists to gain a better understanding of a material’s properties and performance. 

How could its potential lead to future applications?

SuperSTEM’s microscopes have the potential to identify impurities in new materials, including graphene. Researchers say this opens up a new era of research into a wide range of materials in semiconductors and electronics, as well as chemistry, catalysis and biochemistry.