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Work begins on new ER-C laboratory building to house the PICO microscope – from 2010, the Ernst Ruska-Centre will provide materials scientists with unique atomic insights

IFF-News November 4, 2009


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On 4 November 2009, work began with a ground-breaking ceremony for an extension to the Ernst Ruska-Centre. Under the umbrella of the Jülich Aachen Research Alliance (JARA), from 2010 the ER-C will be operating a next generation electron microscope with a world-beating resolution well below 50 picometres. This will enable the ER-C to maintain its position as a frontrunner in ultrahigh-resolution microscopy worldwide. Against this background, the ER-C decided for an extension building designed by PBR Planungsbüro Rohling AG in Osnabrück coming along with improved room stability characteristics.


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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 (DFG) will be providing a total of roughly 15 million Euros for the new building and equipment. Thomas Rachel (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."

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PICO (Advanced Picometre Resolution Project) will have a resolution below 50 picometres. 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.

With the foundation of the Ernst Ruska-Centre (ER-C) in 2004, Research Centre Jülich and RWTH Aachen University have established a centre of excellence for atomic-resolution electron microscopy and spectroscopy on the highest international level. ER-C develops scientific and technical infrastructure and methods for materials research for today and tomorrow, and is simultaneously the first national user centre for ultrahigh-resolution electron microscopy. It represents a partner for the electron optics industry, which markets ER-C products under licence, and it is a leading international institution in the field of research in the subnanometre range. ER-C provides researchers from science and industry with access to the most powerful electron microscopes currently available and guarantees competent assistance.

The Jülich Aachen Research Alliance, JARA for short, is cooperation model between RWTH Aachen University and Research Centre Jüich, which is unique in Germany. It overcomes the insularity of university and non-university research and teaching in order to combine forces to work on complex issues with united research expertise and capacities. In JARA, RWTH Aachen University and Research Centre Jüich specifically link research fields in which they can effectively complement their individual strengths and create a world-class scientific environment according to the motto: "focusing expertise, researching together, shaping the future".

Further reading:

Joint RWTH Aachen University and Research Centre Jülich Press Release of 4 November 2009


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