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Imaging the World of Atoms

Research Centre Jülich and RWTH Aachen University found a national centre of excellence for ultrahigh resolution electron microscopy

[27. Januar 2004]

Joint Press Release - Research Centre Jülich and RWTH Aachen University

Jülich/Aachen, 27 January 2004: In order to develop efficient materials for the future, researchers must look into the unimaginably small region beyond the nanometre range comprising fractions of a millionth of a millimetre. To do this they need ultrahigh-resolution microscopes. Research Centre Jülich and RWTH Aachen University have therefore founded the "Ernst Ruska Centre for Microscopy and Spectroscopy with Electrons". The facility is located on the Research Centre campus. This national centre of excellence will operate the most powerful electron microscopes in the world. Scientists will thus be able to promote research in future-oriented technologies such as nanoelectronics, which will be very beneficial for the future of German industry. The centre of excellence was named after the Nobel laureate for physics, Ernst Ruska, who was the inventor of the electron microscope.

Research Centre Jülich and RWTH Aachen University intend to set an example with the foundation of the "Ernst Ruska Centre for Microscopy and Spectroscopy with Electrons". "With the national centre of excellence we shall lead the world in ultrahigh-resolution electron microscopy", said Prof. Richard Wagner, member of the Board of Directors of Research Centre Jülich with responsibility for this field. This is made possible by a new type of electron optics developed in Germany, in which Research Centre Jülich played a decisive role. In the past few years, this has triggered a worldwide stimulus for the electron optics industry.

The contract for the Ruska Centre was signed by Prof. Joachim Treusch and Dorothee Dzwonnek, members of the Board of Directors of Research Centre Jülich, and by Prof. Burkhard Rauhut, the Rector of the RWTH. The new facility will be headed jointly by Prof. Knut Urban (Jülich) and Prof. Joachim Mayer (Aachen). "This close form of partnership sets a good example for cooperation between universities and non-university research establishments", said Prof. Rauhut.

Both partners contribute top, internationally recognized expertise in complementary fields. On the Jülich side, Prof. Knut Urban's team is among the leaders in structural ultrahigh resolution. The Jülich Institute of Solid State Research houses the world’s first aberration-corrected transmission electron microscope. This microscope is the model for a completely new generation of instruments which are actually capable of sharply imaging atoms and atomic vacancies in the material’s structure. "With the new microscope we are approaching the limits of what is physically and technically feasible", said Urban. "With the Ernst Ruska Centre we shall continue to be pioneers in the development of ultrahigh-resolution microscopes. Germany thus occupies an outstanding position in international research and industry."

Over and above this, a second world-class instrument is going to be acquired for the Ruska Centre. This microscope will enable the researchers to study the chemical nature of the atoms and what holds them together, i.e. their chemical bonds. In this field, Prof. Joachim Mayer, at present head of the Central Facility for Electron Microscopy of RWTH Aachen University, is regarded as one of the leading experts. "We shall be in a position to look between the atoms and to investigate the states of the electrons there", says Mayer. "In this way we will be able to reach the source of the electronic and other materials properties."

The German Research Foundation (DFG), represented at the inaugural ceremony by Prof. Sigrid Peyerimhoff, is offering special support to the Ernst Ruska Centre. The DFG is a member of the supervisory board of the new centre of excellence. It is bearing the major share of the cost of the first new high-performance microscope that was constructed by Zeiss NTS, Oberkochen. As a special extra, the DFG is ensuring that scientists who want to perform measurements here receive the travelling expenses they need.


Engineers from Zeiss NTS (Oberkochen) put the finishing touches to the new high-performance electron microscope that is about to be delivered to the Ernst Ruska Centre.

Photograph: Zeiss NTS GmbH (Oberkochen)

Press contact for Research Centre Jülich:

Dr. Renée Dillinger
science journalist
Forschungszentrum Jülich
52425 Jülich, Germany
Tel. ++ 49 2461 61-4771, fax ++49 2461 61-4666

Mechthild Hexamer
Head of Public Relations Department, Press Relations Officer
Tel. ++49 2461 61-4661, fax ++49 2461 61-4666

Press contact for RWTH Aachen University:

Toni Wimmer
Head of the Press and Public Relations Department
Tel. ++49 241 80-94322, fax ++49 241 80-92324