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Work Begins on Laboratory for World's Most Powerful Microscope

PGI-News November 4, 2009

From 2010, the Ernst Ruska Centre in Jülich will provide materials scientists with unique atomic insights


Jülich, Aachen, 4 November 2009. With a groundbreaking ceremony, work began today on an extension to the Ernst Ruska-Centre (ER-C) on the campus of Forschungszentrum Jülich. Under the umbrella of the Jülich Aachen Research Alliance (JARA), from 2010 the Centre for Microscopy and Spectroscopy with Electrons, founded jointly by RWTH Aachen University and Forschungszentrum Jülich, will be operating a unique electron microscope with a world-beating resolution of 50 billionths of a millimetre. This will enable Jülich and Aachen to maintain their position as the frontrunners in ultrahigh-resolution microscopy worldwide.

With the new microscope known as PICO, materials scientists and those conducting basic research from science and industry will be able to investigate atomic structures that have previously been inaccessible. This will benefit, for example, energy research or information technology. The Federal Government, the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia and the German Research Foundation will be providing a total of roughly \u20ac 15 million for the new building and equipment. Thomas Rachel (Member of the Bundestag and Parliamentary State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Education and Research) called the ER-C and the PICO project a "shining example of how milestones can be achieved in Germany's innovative competitiveness by cooperation between university and non-university research." He said, "Researchers will be able to obtain completely new insights into the structure of matter here in Jülich with one of the most powerful microscopes in the world. As the Federal Research Ministry, we will continue to support such excellent basic research in future since only in this way can we secure Germany's innovative strength."

PICO (Advanced Picometre Resolution Project) will have a resolution of 50 picometres (1 picometre = 10-12 metres). Using modern computer methods, not only individual atoms but also atomic distances and atom displacements can also be measured with a previously unknown accuracy of around one picometre - in other words less than one hundredth of the diameter of an atom. At the same time, spectroscopic analyses can be used to explain the nature of the atoms investigated and their chemical bonding conditions. PICO is based on aberration-corrected electron optics developed in the nineties with scientists from ER-C making a major contribution to this development.

Inauguration of the Ernst Ruska Centre (German)
Jülich Aachen Research Alliance