Featured R&D 100 winner: Livermore’s movie-mode electron microscope
In 2010 Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) introduced a new type of electron microscope that could study structural dynamics in condensed matter with the help of a nanosecond laser “pump” that could capture images. In 2013, the laboratory won another R&D 100 Award for speeding up this process more than 100,000 times, resulting in a “movie-mode” version of the instrument.
A new instrument developed by LLNL scientists and engineers, the Movie Mode Dynamic Transmission Electron Microscope (MM-DTEM), captures billionth-of-a-meter-scale images with frame rates more than 100,000 times faster than those of conventional techniques. The work was done in collaboration with a Pleasanton-based company, Integrated Dynamic Electron Solutions (IDES) Inc. Using this revolutionary imaging technique, a range of fundamental and technologically important material and biological processes can be captured in action, in complete billionth-of-a-meter detail, for the first time. The primary application of MM-DTEM is the direct observation of fast processes, including microstructural changes, phase transformations and chemical reactions, that shape real-world performance of nanostructured materials and potentially biological entities. The instrument could prove especially valuable in the direct observation of macromolecular interactions, such as protein-protein binding and host-pathogen interactions. While an earlier version of the technology, Single Shot-DTEM, could capture a single snapshot of a rapid process, MM-DTEM captures a multiframe movie that reveals complex sequences of events in detail. It is the only existing technology that can capture multiple electron microscopy images in the span of a single microsecond.
IDES Inc. has licensed the technology from LLNL and worked with the Laboratory to define the instrument as a commercially available product. The firm expects to have its first orders within the next several months.