Advanced health tools, battery technology and nanomaterials are all potential developments that could flow from a new microscope at The University of Queensland.
The $5 million Hitachi HF5000 200kV Transmission Electron Microscope can see objects smaller than the very smallest atom – a hydrogen atom.
It was launched at the newly renovated Hawken Microscopy Facility at UQ’s Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis.
Centre Director Professor Roger Wepf said the new technology would help bring together researchers from quantum physics to molecular biology, potentially leading to ground-breaking technologies.
“This microscope has enough power to see to a millionth the diameter of a human hair, which means you can see even small variations in the spacing between atom lattices in metals and semiconductors,” he said.
“Getting down to this infinitesimally microscopic level is going to open up discoveries in the fields of health, synthetic biology, advanced materials and unique electronic devices.
“Imagine being able to manipulate ultrathin electronic or magnetic materials in real time, test nanoscale battery models, or see how a drug is delivered to a cell on a molecular or atomic scale.”
Professor Wepf said the microscope provided a unique research platform.
He said Hitachi, along with other partners, including scientific equipment specialists NewSpec, were keen to push technological boundaries in efforts that would help position Queensland at the centre of a sixth technological wave, the so-called sustainable ‘green wave’.
Professor Wepf was joined at the launch by Hitachi Vice President and Executive Officer Mikio Takagi, Member for Redlands Kim Richards MP, UQ Provost Professor Aidan Byrne and NewSpec CEO Graeme Jones.
The infrastructure is part of a raft of investments in microscopy at UQ, which includes $5.5 million for the Hawken facility’s refurbishment and $4.5 million for a nanolithography suite as part of the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQUS).