National Center for Electron Microscopy Opens New Wing

April 18, 1997

By Ron Kolb,

Berkeley Lab Director Charles Shank, wielding an oversized pair of scissors, sliced a special ribbon on April 4 that signaled the opening of the Laboratory's newest facility -- a new wing of the National Center for Electron Microscopy (NCEM).

The "ribbon," a photo reproduction of atoms of aluminum and germanium, gave the estimated 200 visitors on hand for the ceremony a glance at the power and capabilities of the center's microscopes, three of which were dedicated that day. In particular, the One Angstrom Microscope (OAM), once fully operational, will achieve unprecedented resolution for the study of atomic structure and behavior.

Shank reflected the promise of the new instrumentation, which will "open up new directions for scientific investigation, new vistas of discovery." He said NCEM epitomizes Lab founder Ernest Orlando Lawrence's vision of bringing teams of scientists together to utilize complex instruments in solving national problems of scale.

NCEM Director Uli Dahmen said the facility's new wing and upgrades, which include second-floor office space for user-visitors and five additional microscopes (three in the wing), are important for establishing NCEM as "the leading center for electron microscopy in the world." Many in the audience were conferees from an afternoon symposium on the role of electron microscopy in science and technology, held in Perseverance Hall.

Dahmen cited the contributions of many to the completion of the project--the Department of Energy, which provided the vision and funding; IBM, for its gift of the Spin Polarized Low Energy Electron Microscope (SPLEEM) in the new wing; and Philips Electron Optics, which built the One-Angstrom Microscope and provided a training and research fellowship. Remarks and congratulations were offered by Helen Farrell, of DOE's Basic Energy Sciences program; Barbara Jones, manager for magnetic materials and phenomena at IBM's Almaden Research Center, and Mike Thompson, general manager and president of Philips Electron Optics.

Dahmen also noted the invaluable assistance of Berkeley Lab personnel in the project-- the facilities department, who "took this new wing from the drawing board to reality, on budget and on schedule"; the scientific and technical staff of NCEM; the offices of finance, purchasing and legal counsel; the Oakland Operations Office of DOE; and the support staffs of NCEM and Materials Sciences.

He took special note of the accomplishments of two Lab employees who recently died--Greg Raymond, who was an architect for the new wing, and Mark Fendorf, a microscopist and materials scientist at NCEM. "I want to thank them for their contribution," Dahmen told the audience, "and of their colleagues and friends I would request that when you take your first drink at the refreshment table in the courtyard, you drink not only to the center's health, but to the memory of Greg and Mark, who had to leave before their time."

Of the three new microscopes that were unveiled on a tour following the ceremony, the One Angstrom Microscope is creating the most buzz. The OAM will be able to peer deep inside a material and resolve images to within a single angstrom, which is about the diameter of a hydrogen atom. For example, using computer alignment and reconstruction, the instrument will be used to get a first-time view of the oxygen atoms in oxide superconductors.

SPLEEM, the result of a $1 million donation from IBM, will give scientists their first molecular-level look at the interplay between magnetism and atomic structure at nanometer resolution. Surface magnetic behavior holds the key to advances in reading and writing high-density information on computer disks.

A state-of-the-art analytical microscope known as CM200FEG is capable of identifying the presence of trace impurities in the most minute amounts of materials, at near-atomic levels. It can give scientists a map of atomic bonds at interfaces between materials and measure the distribution of magnetic particles.

NCEM, which was established in 1983, now boasts eight microscopes and a cutting-edge computer facility, which are used by more than 100 visiting scientists from around the world each year.

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