One of the Best Electron Microscopes in the World

August 8, 2017
Jennifer Frey

Israel has entered a new era in microscopy with the Technion’s purchase of the Titan “Themis”—one of the most advanced electron microscopes in the world, and the only one of its kind in Israel.

The Themis (Titan Cubed Themis G2300) is a transmission electron microscope (TEM) capable of providing an image of individual atoms and, based on that image, providing information about the material’s structure and properties at subnanometer resolution. The microscope is about 13 feet high and enables real-time tracking of dynamic processes occurring in the material, such as heating and cooling.

The Themis being installed.

“We call it a microscope, but it is actually a complete laboratory that enables us to perform diverse experiments under changing conditions, monitor processes in materials, and characterize materials in ways that were previously unavailable to us,” says Dr. Yaron Kauffman, head of the Electron Microscopy Center in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. “This is a significant tool for atomic-level characterization of diverse materials such as metals; semiconductors and polymers; and ceramic, organic, hybrid and biological materials.”

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In TEMs, the electrons penetrate the sample, are emitted on the other side, and monitored by various sensors. These sensors enable us to understand the structure of the material (arrangement of atoms), its chemical composition (type of atoms), and the types of chemical bonds inside it.

The new microscope was purchased with the assistance of the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute at the Technion. It replaces the Titan (FEI Titan 80-300 KeV S/TEM), which was considered the world’s leading electron microscope when the Technion bought it in 2006. “In order to remain at the forefront of global science, we must constantly update the research infrastructure at the Technion,” says Professor Wayne Kaplan, Technion Executive Vice President for Research.

“The new microscope will enable us to see the bonds between atoms and important fundamental chemical processes with nanometer resolution,” Kaplan adds. “Themis will lead the microscopy revolution at the nano and quantum scale, and marks the beginning of a new era in microscopy in Israel.”

The completed Themis

The Themis was manufactured by the U.S. company FEI (Thermo Fisher Scientific). Its installation in the Electron Microscopy Center took about a week. It sits in a special insulated room to prevent the influence of acoustic noise, mechanical vibrations and electromagnetic field interference on experiments. The Themis is fixed to a surface anchored to a rock deep in the ground, and stabilized by a floating floor that insulates it from various vibrations in the environment. It is controlled from an adjacent dedicated control room.

The workings of the electron microscope are similar to those of the optical microscope, with which most of us are more familiar. But instead of using glass lenses to illuminate the sample with a focused light beam (photons), the electron microscope uses electromagnetic lenses (coils) to project a focused electron beam onto the sample. The main advantage of the electron microscope is its high-resolution capability. Compared with the optical microscope, which is limited to a resolution of about 200 nanometers, the electron microscope is capable of achieving a resolution below 1 Ångström (one-tenth of a nanometer).

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is a major source of the innovation and brainpower that drives the Israeli economy, and a key to Israel’s renown as the world’s “Start-Up Nation.” Its three Nobel Prize winners exemplify academic excellence. Technion people, ideas and inventions make immeasurable contributions to the world including life-saving medicine, sustainable energy, computer science, water conservation and nanotechnology. The Joan and Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute is a vital component of Cornell Tech, and a model for graduate applied science education that is expected to transform New York City’s economy. Learn more at www.ats.org/nyc or follow #TechnionNYC across social media.

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