Direct electron detector for soft matter TEM.

May 2016 – April 2020

Modern materials are made to perform a certain task very well at a low (energy) cost of production. This drive towards more efficient materials has shifted the attention from making e.g. the strongest material to making a sufficiently strong material at an acceptable use of natural resources. Combining this trend in materials science with the nano revolution where properties of materials depend increasingly on their structure at the nanoscale, requires scientific instruments that study these so-called soft materials on the nanoscale. Typically, this is a task for transmission electron microscopy (TEM) offering a look inside materials down to the atomic structure. A drawback of TEM however is that this process can destroy soft materials while viewing, making the analysis unreliable or impossible. In order to overcome this issue, we propose to acquire a so-called direct electron detector which efficiently detects every electron that interacts with a given material reducing the required electron dose by up to a factor of 100. This considerably shifts the field of applicability of TEM into the range of soft materials allowing us to resolve their structure down to the atomic level.