News of the WeekMicroscopy

Helium Beam Shows the Gentle, Sensitive Touch

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Science  03 Dec 1999:
Vol. 286, Issue 5446, pp. 1831
DOI: 10.1126/science.286.5446.1831

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Summary

A microscope with unprecedented sensitivity, based on a beam of atoms rather than light or electrons, is a step closer to reality thanks to a German collaboration that has coaxed helium atoms into an intense, needle-fine beam. In contrast to energetic probes such as x-rays or electrons, helium atoms bounce lightly off the target surface without damaging it, so an atom-beam microscope would be a unique instrument for examining surface structures nonintrusively, such as watching the buzzing vibrations on the surface of the minute crystals in metals, say researchers.

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