Looking at atoms through the eyes of TITANS
Ernst Ruska Centre at Research Centre Jülich inaugurated
[18. Mai 2006]
Jülich, 18 May 2006 - The first national user centre for electron microscopy was officially opened today in the presence of Dr. Beatrix Vierkorn-Rudolph, head of "Large-Scale Equipment, Basic Research" at the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Dr. Reinhard Grunwald, Secretary-General of the German Research Foundation, and representatives of the Innovation Ministry of the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia. With the opening of the Centre, globally unique access to the world of atoms is now provided, as emphasized by the two operating institutes, Research Centre Jülich and RWTH Aachen University of Technology.
The Centre's two main instruments of the TITAN type, which are almost four metres high and have a weight of two tons, have only little in common with the table microscope remembered by many people when thinking of biology lessons in school. These world-class instruments, which cost almost four million euros each, provide magnifications by a factor of one million and are based on innovations in electron optics in which Research Centre Jülich was decisively involved.
From nanotechnology up to new materials, from electronics up to automotive engineering - insights into the atomic world are required everywhere today. The interplay of atoms determines the properties of materials and components. In order to explore this, researchers developed a new type of aberrationally corrected electron optics 15 years ago. Cooperation between the Darmstadt University of Technology, the EMBL research laboratory in Heidelberg and Research Centre Jülich led to an instrument that generates microscopic images of hardly imaginable resolution.
"When we started work on aberrationally corrected electron lenses in 1991, the rest of the professional community assured us that such a thing would never work. Today, the new optics has revolutionized the relevant industry worldwide", says Professor Knut Urban, director at the Jülich Institute of Solid State Research, who at that time joined forces with his colleagues Professor Harald Rose and Dr. Maximilian Haider and was supported by the Volkswagen Foundation. Today, the technology at the Ernst Ruska Centre is accessible to all interested researchers.
"By also making these advanced but expensive microscopes available to universities or industrial laboratories in the form of a competence platform, the new electron optics is also accessible to broad-based research", Urban adds. Researchers at Jülich have found an outstanding partner in Professor Joachim Mayer, head of the Central Facility for Electron Microscopy at RWTH Aachen University of Technology. "The spectroscopic data additionally available using the TITAN instruments provide information about the bonding state of the atoms and the electronic structure of the materials investigated", says Mayer. "We are thus able to understand and learn to improve the properties of internal interfaces in composite materials, which definitely gives rise to great hopes for modern technology, from microchips up to aircraft construction."
Professor Burkhard Rauhut, Rector of RWTH, and Professor Joachim Treusch, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Research Centre Jülich, in their welcome address underline the trendsetting nature of the Ernst Ruska Centre as an institution operated on equal terms based on partnership that will attract nationwide attention. Dr. Reinhard Grunwald, Secretary-General of the German Research Foundation, which financed one of the two TITAN instruments, refers to the Ernst Ruska Centre as a shining example of the cooperation of university and non-university research to their mutual benefit.
At the end of the inauguration event, in the presence of Ernst Ruska's widow and of his sons, a bust of the researcher and engineer, who died in 1988, will be unveiled. The life's work of the Nobel prize winner (1986), who would have been 100 years old this year, will be honoured at a symposium on the following day, for which the leading figures in international electron microscopy will travel to Jülich.
A titan among the microscopes: despite its own huge dimensions, the new electron microscope at the Ernst Ruska Centre penetrates into the smallest, the atomic, dimensions.
The microscopes of the Ernst Ruska Centre at Research Centre Jülich can "see" individual atoms of a lattice, here a heterostructure of dysprosium scandate and strontium titanate. Such films are of interest as a gate oxide in transistors.
(from left to right): Klaus Ruska , RWTH-Rektor Rauhut, Irmela Ruska, Jürgen Ruska, Prof. Joachim Treusch, Prof. Knut Urban und Prof. Joachim Mayer (RWTH)
Photographs: Research Centre Jülich
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