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Work Begins on Laboratory for World's Most Powerful Microscope

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

Joint Press Release from RWTH Aachen University and Forschungszentrum Jülich.

[4. November 2009]

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 ¤ 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 = 10-12metres). 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, Forschungszentrum 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 Forschungszentrum Jülich, 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 Forschungszentrum Jülich 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".

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PICO's resolution will be 50 picometres. It will thus be possible for the first time to individually resolve closely spaced atomic positions (above, projection). The resolution of the best electron microscopes in the world is currently no more than 80 picometres (below, high-resolution electron microscope picture of aluminium nitride). Picture: Forschungszentrum Jülich


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Groundbreaking ceremony, from left to right: Prof. Knut Urban (Director ER-C), Prof. Achim Bachem (Chairman of the Board of Directors of Forschungszentrum Jülich), Thomas Rachel (Federal Ministry of Education and Research), Prof. Ernst Schmachtenberg (Rector of RWTH Aachen University), and Prof. Joachim Mayer (Director ER-C). Picture: Forschungszentrum Jülich


Press contact:

Angela Wenzik
Institute of Solid State Research (IFF)
Tel.: +49 2461 61-6048
Fax: +49 2461 61-2410
E-mail: a.wenzik@fz-juelich.de

Christian Schipke
Jülich Aachen Research Alliance (JARA)
Tel.: +49 2461 61-3835
Fax: +49 2461 61-4666
E-mail: c.schipke@fz-juelich.de


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