transmission electron microscope

It’s getting harder and harder for atoms to hide. In 2012, scientists for the first time saw the bonds that held atoms together in molecules using an atomic force microscope. And last year, microscopists revealed that they had used a quantum microscope to record the orbital in which a hydrogen atom’s electron flies around the nucleus.  

Now North Carolina State University scientists have figured out a way to correct tiny unwanted distortions during scanning transmission electron microscope (TEM) imaging.

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Giant virus resurrected from 30,000-year-old ice (Nature News)

Scientists have revived a giant virus that was buried in Siberian ice for 30,000 years — and it is still infectious. Its targets are amoebae, but the researchers suggest that as Earth’s ice melts, this could trigger the return of other ancient viruses, with potential risks for human health.

The newly thawed virus is the biggest one ever found. At 1.5 micrometres long, it is comparable in size to a small bacterium. Evolutionary biologists Jean-Michel Claverie and Chantal Abergel, the husband-and-wife team at Aix-Marseille University in France who led the work, named it Pithovirus sibericum, inspired by the Greek word ‘pithos’ for the large container used by the ancient Greeks to store wine and food. “We’re French, so we had to put wine in the story,” says Claverie. The results are published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences1

Larger than some bacteria, this virus — seen in a cross-section under a transmission electron microscope — was still able to infect amoebae despite having spent 30 millennia in a frozen state. Julia Bartoli & Chantal Abergel; Information Génomique et Structurale, CNRS-AMU


Light Observed as Particle and Wave at the Same Time

by Txchnologist staff

Since physicists at the beginning of the 20th century realized the dual nature of light–that it simultaneously exists as a particle and a wave–they have been hungry to see both aspects at the same time. Now, more than 100 years after the work of Max Planck, Albert Einstein and others began uncovering wave-particle duality, scientists in Switzerland say they have done it. 

The picture above, taken in the lab of Fabrizio Carbone at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, shows light from a laser that was trapped on a nanoscopic silver wire. By capturing the wave along the length of the nanowire, the researchers were able to discern the standing electromagnetic wave through spatial interference patterns. 

Then they fired electrons at the wire in an attempt to interact with the particles that make up light, which are called photons. The scientists were able to visualize the photons by measuring the exchange of energy when the electrons hit them. Using a large, specialized microscope, the team watched where the energy exchange happened along the standing wave trapped on the wire. 

The photo that resulted, they said, shows both a wave of light and individual photons. See more images and read more below.

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Today is a shameless plug for Michigan Tech (and to think they aren’t even paying me for it!).  Another shot from Thursday’s lab, this is the TEM (Transmission electron microscope).  It is one of the many different microscopes that we have on campus and is really super cool (to me, anyway).  Luckily students get to actually use these microscopes as undergrads which is relatively rare at other universities.  So there you have it, you have now been informed rather than entertained.  My civil duty is done and I’ll get back on track with more pig pencil case pictures later. 

High-Tech Wood: Research Unlocks Unexpected Products from Trees

by Michael Keller

The 21st century tree farm isn’t going to offer just the raw materials for paper, buildings and furniture. Technologies are starting to unlock new uses for trees–for biofuels, new chemicals and a product called nanocellulose, a carbohydrate building block of plants that might just be the next supermaterial.

It turns out that trees have been deploying their own nanotechnology for millennia, growing nanocellulose as a major component of their trunks for strength and to resist wind and rain while minimizing weight. Individual particles are less than a thousandth the width of a sand grain–generally less than 500 nanometers long and 20 nanometers wide. After it has been processed from wood pulp using high temperature and pressure to liberate it, the material is light, stiff and strong, is biodegradable and is cheaper to produce than many advanced products developed in a lab. It also exhibits highly sought-after properties.

Because it can add strength to materials in small enough quantities that allows light to pass through, the Army is looking at it as an additive for durable transparent composites. Others are investigating its use in applications from biocompatible implants and flexible displays and solar panels to better bioplastics, cosmetics and concrete. See a picture and learn more below.

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