ORION Helium Ion Microscope

ORION Helium Ion Microscope (Images courtesy ALIS Corporation and Gizmag)
By Andrew Liszewski

As amazing as some of the images produced by scanning electron microscopes are, they still have their limits on how far they can ‘zoom in.’ And unfortunately those limits also effect a lot of research since scientists can only see so much of what they’re studying. But a new type of microscope that uses a beam of helium ions instead of electrons promises to change all that.

Since helium ions can be focused into a smaller beam and probe size than electrons, the new microscope allows for greater image resolution, depth of focus and material contrast. It’s kind of like the way a blue laser can store more data on a DVD than a red laser, since it produces a finer beam. The microscope is also claimed to be “the brightest illumination source ever created by man” since it originates from a region that’s less than one angstrom or 0.1 nanometers in size.

The ORION was made possible in part by research done by the ALIS Corporation, which was merged with Carl Zeiss SMT last year. In fact Dr. Nicholas P. Economou and Bill Ward from Carl Zeiss were recently awarded one of the Wall Street Journal’s ‘Technology Innovation Awards’ for their work on the new microscope. However I think they need to work on their marketing a bit since so far the company has only sold one unit, with five more under construction. Maybe a million dollar Super Bowl ad is in order?

[ ORION Helium Ion Microscope ] VIA [ Gizmag ]

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