Photo: Mikal Schlosser

World-class microscopes for Nanoteket

Tuesday 04 Mar 14

How the microscopes work

Electron microscopes are used to examine objects and structures that are so small that they cannot be seen with an ordinary optical microscope.

The microscopes use an electron cannon to fire electrons against the material that is being examined. They then measures the signals that are sent back and use them to create 3D-like images of the surface structure—all the way down to nanometre scale.
The microscopes can enlarge objects up to 60,000 times, and they provide a resolution equivalent to one thousandth of the width of a human hair.

The other microscopes at Nanoteket are scanning tunnel microscopes (STM) and atomic force microscopes (AFM).
New electron microscopes worth millions will make Nanoteket even more fascinating for visitors. Staff and students at Danish high schools are already excited.

By Bertel Henning Jensen

At the end of February, ‘Nanoteket’ at DTU Physics opened the doors to the first teaching laboratory with electron microscopes in Denmark. The five new scanning electron microscopes—which resemble small refrigerators—with associated vacuum pumps, keyboards and touch-sensitive screens, give high school students and university students the chance to carry out experiments that were previously the exclusive preserve of experienced researchers.

Surface structure at nano-level
The new microscopes can visualize surface structures at nano-level, for example, and determine the elements that make up the sample that is being examined. As such, they constitute an important addition to the two types of microscope that Nanoteket already possesses.

Researchers, DTU students and—in particular—high school students have all shown great interest in the microscopes. Nanoteket attracts around 3,500 visitors per year, and staff expect that the scanning electron microscopes will draw an additional 500 or so interested people—primarily high school students—every year.

Photo: Mikal Schlosser

Irvin Svensson, a teacher at Rosborg High School in Vejle (in Jutland), usually accompanies a class of students to DTU once a year, and it is always a delight—both for his students and himself.
“It’s incredible that this new equipment has arrived. The students always enjoy the microscopy exercises. It’s a lot of fun to peer into a microscope and enter a whole new world,” he says, emphasizing that in addition to the very special equipment available, Nanoteket offers another major benefit:
“There are students there who help and coach the high school students, and it’s fantastic to see how they deal with them. It’s much more exciting for them to work with someone who’s only a bit older than they are—rather than a stuffy old teacher like me,” he says.

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