Molecular Level Explorations: Transmission Electron Microscope
Aug 22, 2016 | Anubhav Kar
The Department of Chemical Engineering is one of the oldest branches at NITR. Over the years, the department has taken rapid strides in the field of material science which forms the basis of our day-to-day lives. It is slowly making a place for itself in the field of cutting edge research, especially now that the department boasts of a fully equipped Transmission Electron Microscope, which has cost the department a whopping INR 9.5 crores. Team MM caught with Prof. S. Paria, to know more about the intricacies of the most expensive equipment on the campus, currently.
The instrument was installed last year in October. One of the primary features of the microscope is its powerful and high magnifying ratio. While other microscopes usually have a magnification ratio of 1 lakh, the transmission electron microscope can magnify images to a much larger extent making it possible to visualize images at a molecular or even atomic scale. While other microscopes can exhibit the surface of the material, the TEM can penetrate through the surface of the material due to its extremely powerful electron beam. This gives us an insight into the crystal structure and atomic distribution of the substance. Further, it can provide both light field and dark field viewing of images, depending on the need of a light or dark background.
The TEM employs the latest technology as its electron gun is powered through field emission. It also features very high electron beams that run at 300kV. It is multi-purpose equipment with options to analyse both biological specimens as well as advanced materials. The analysis can be carried out even at a cryo-scale, which is not possible with ordinary electron microscopes. Since it allows one to investigate the behaviour of a substance at a very small scale such as the nanoscale which facilitates one’s understanding of the substance, it can even provide confirmations to various hypotheses.
In modern research, the TEM is extremely relevant as from the perspective of chemistry or chemical engineering, since large surface to volume ratio is always desirable. This is only possible by working on the substance at a very small scale which is facilitated by the microscope. With other equipments such as the Magnetometer and the X Ray Spectrometer available on campus, one can only expect research in fields of biology, chemistry and material science to be more comprehensive in the future.