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Dawn Levy, News Service: (650) 725-1944,

EDITORS: This release was written by science writing intern Jessica Ruvinsky.

Nanocharacterization Facility acquires world-class microscopes

This fall, the Nanocharacterization Facility in the Geballe Laboratory for Advanced Materials acquired two state-of-the-art microscopes. Stanford purchased a focused ion beam microscope from FEI Co., and the company loaned the university a scanning electron microscope that also will be used for FEI customer demonstrations.

"This opens up a whole new range of experiments Stanford researchers can do," says materials science and engineering Professor Robert Sinclair, director of the facility, which was established in spring 2002.

The imaging capabilities are a vast improvement over those of the previously available equipment. The scanning electron microscope on long-term loan from FEI has a resolution of about two billionths of a meter and can magnify surfaces 100,000 times. It also can reveal local chemical compositions and crystal structure.

The focused ion beam microscope, on the other hand, is good for more than just looking: Scientists also can use it to manipulate samples. Fritz Prinz, the Rodney H. Adams Professor in the School of Engineering, likens the device to a nanoscale machine shop. Researchers can use the microscope both to etch patterns in a surface and to deposit materials on top of it, manufacturing gadgets that are too small to see with the naked eye. The focused ion beam can cut cross-sections that are one-tenth of a micron thick -- more than a thousand times thinner than a human hair. And by attaching tiny rods to these cross-sections, researchers can then move them to a transmission electron microscope powerful enough to see individual atoms.

Kathryn Ann Moler, associate professor of applied physics, has been using the scanning electron microscope to see tiny cobalt particles, "nanomagnets" only 50 atoms across, that have potential applications in fields from information technology to fundamental quantum mechanics research. Reinhold Dauskardt, professor of materials science and engineering, and his students use the new microscopes extensively in their research on topics such as thin-film microelectronic materials, transdermal drug delivery systems and metallic glass alloys for aerospace applications.

Without the new on-site equipment, Stanford scientists would have to use equipment belonging to collaborators at companies and other universities to be able to conduct this research. "We might have been the last major research university not to have [a focused ion beam microscope] on site," Dauskardt says. "We finally have one, and it's one of the very best."

Jessica Ruvinsky is a science writing intern at the Stanford News Service.


By Jessica Ruvinsky

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