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New advanced electron microscope enables atomic-level discovery of novel energy-efficient materials

Sep 19, 2023

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — A new NEOARM transmission electron microscope will enable researchers in the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University Bloomington and partners in the region to examine materials used in the making of plastics, metals, fuels and even quantum matter at single-atom resolution. The microscope will support transformative research that could advance the creation of more energy-efficient recyclables, fuels, and green materials.

The acquisition of the NEOARM Atomic Resolution Analytical Electron Microscope coincides with the major refurbishment of specialized lab ... The acquisition of the NEOARM Atomic Resolution Analytical Electron Microscope coincides with the major refurbishment of specialized lab space in Simon Hall. Photo by Chris Meyer, Indiana University

“One of the most exciting aspects of this microscope is that it will allow us to address the global energy challenge and put IU, the College and our department at the forefront of leading-edge research and discovery,” said Steven Tait, chair of the College’s Department of Chemistry, Herman T. Briscoe Professor of Chemistry and associate director of the Electron Microscopy Center. “By being able to visualize materials at the atomic level, we can develop a deeper understanding of their fundamental characteristics, which will accelerate discovery of new materials on our campus.”

The new microscope will be part of the IU Bloomington Electron Microscopy Center, a campus research facility that serves faculty within the College and beyond. The acquisition of the NEOARM Atomic Resolution Analytical Electron Microscope coincides with the major refurbishment of specialized lab space in Simon Hall, an interdisciplinary sciences building, and will be installed this semester.

“This is a remarkable tool that will primarily be operated by IU students and scientists, that will support transformative research supported by federal funding agencies,” Tait said. “Student users will benefit by advancing their research projects and also by receiving training on a world-class tool to benefit their future careers.”

Chemistry, physics and other academic departments across the College and IU Bloomington will be able to use the NEOARM microscope, as will researchers from other IU campuses, universities in the region and external partners.

Steve Tait Steve Tait, chair of the Department of Chemistry, Herman T. Briscoe Professor of Chemistry and associate director of the Electron Microscopy Center, said the microscope will provide new research opportunities for students and faculty. Photo by James Vavrek, Indiana University“The NEOARM microscope will enable researchers at IU and external users to examine materials with single-atom resolution in broad classes, including catalysts, metals, soft matter, porous materials, quantum materials and ceramics,” said Xingchen Ye, assistant professor of chemistry. “The combination of multimodal imaging and analytical techniques and in-situ capabilities will significantly strengthen the research portfolios at IU and nearby institutions. We are excited by this investment, as it allows us to dream bigger by seeing smaller.”

The microscope will enable research that advances energy efficiency and lower the cost of materials that are essential to our economy, having an impact on everyday life for individuals and wider society.

“This will help us to achieve next-generation catalysts for fuel cells and materials, with the ability to harvest solar energy efficiently,” said Sara Skrabalak, the James H. Rudy Professor of Chemistry.

IU Bloomington is one of few institutions with a NEOARM microscope, giving faculty and students unique research opportunities that will spur discovery.

“The physical properties of a solid-state material are highly sensitive to the precise position of the atoms of which the material is made,” said Shixiong Zhang, associate professor of physics. “This unique tool enables direct imaging of atoms and defects in real space, which can provide significant insight into the origin of the various interesting physical phenomena observed in materials.”

Indiana University’s newly expanded Research Equipment Fund supported the purchase of the NEOARM microscope.

IU’s Department of Chemistry faculty consistently rank among the best in their respective fields, and the graduate program is ranked among the nation’s leaders. Department undergraduates are scientists-in-training who advance a rich campus history of commitment to chemistry and biochemistry. The department consistently ranks in the nation’s top 20 in the graduation of total and American Chemical Society-certified degree holders in chemistry.

Author

IU Newsroom

Barbara Brosher

Executive Director of Storytelling and Research Communications
The College of Arts and Sciences

Steve Barnes

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