October 22, 2008 Microscopes have been an integral tool for scientists for hundreds of years, opening up the microscopic world that surrounds us and providing countless scientific breakthroughs. Now the most advanced and powerful electron microscope on the planet—capable of unprecedented resolution—has been installed in the new Canadian Centre for Electron Microscopy at McMaster University in Ontario.
The resolution of the Titan 80-300 Cubed microscope is the equivalent of the Hubble Telescope looking at the atomic level instead of at stars and galaxies. The microscope can identify atoms, measure their chemical state and even probe the electrons that bind them together. Built in the Netherlands by the FEI Company at a cost of $15 million, the Titan cluster will examine at the nano level hundreds of everyday products in order to understand, manipulate and improve their efficiency.
The $15 million microscope will be used to help produce more efficient lighting and better solar cells, study proteins and drug-delivery materials to target cancers. It will assess atmospheric particulates, and help create lighter and stronger automotive materials, more effective cosmetics, and higher density memory storage for faster electronic and telecommunication devices.
The new microscope is housed in a stable, specially designed facility able to withstand ultralow vibrations, low noise, and minute temperature fluctuations. Operation of the instrument will also be done from a separate room to ensure results of the highest quality.
"The addition of the Titan 80-300 Cubed to the Centre's suite of microscopy instruments that include a Titan cryo-in situ solidifies Ontario's and Canada's lead in nanotechnology, and places us among the world's most advanced materials research institutions," says Mo Elbestawi, McMaster's vice-president, Research and International Affairs.