SCIENTISTS RECONSTRUCT A CRYSTAL’S 3D STRUCTURE FROM A SINGLE IMAGE
Written By: David J. Hill
When it comes to the nanoworld, a picture really is like a thousand words.
Thanks to a joint effort by European and Chinese scientists, a new microscopy methodconverts a 2D image of a nanoparticle into a 3D model with incredible precision. By extracting the quantum information embedded in a high-resolution electron microscope image, a 3D grid can be reconstructed by identifying the specific location of the individual atoms within the crystal.
It’s tantamount to taking a good look at the first row of soup cans on a shelf in the grocery store and knowing how many cans are sitting behind—without ever seeing any of them directly.
The method works by positioning a magnesium oxide crystal such that atoms line up on top of each other in columns. The electron wave from the microscope interacts with each atom in discrete ways as it passes through the column. By enhancing the signals and analyzing them according to mathematical models, subtle variations due to accumulated quantum effects can be resolved, allowing the atoms under the surface to be spatially mapped by depth.
“On its way through the crystal lattice, the electron wave of the microscope acts as a highly sensitive atom detector and is influenced by each individual atom. The key point is that it does actually make a difference whether the wave front encounters an atom at the beginning or at the end of its pathway through the crystal,” explained Professor Chunlin Jiain the release.
In addition to determining each atom’s location, the technique is sensitive enough to differentiate between the alternating magnesium and oxygen atoms within the crystal. It can even detect atoms from impurities.
“Acquiring three-dimensional information from a single two-dimensional image seems impossible at first glance,” said Jia. “Nevertheless, it is in fact possible; we don’t obtain a simple two-dimensional projection of the three-dimensional sample as the experiment follows quantum mechanical principles instead.”
Achieving this same feat on the macroscale, that is producing a 3D model from a photograph, requires triangulation of multiple images. In fact, you can do this with the 123dapp app from Autodesk by taking 20 to 40 photos with your smartphone. But from a single photo? No dice.
It’s hoped that the technique will find utility in the study of radioactive samples that degrade easily under the conditions of electron microscopy. The new methodology, developed by scientists at Forschungszentrum Jülich in Germany and Xi’an Jiaotong University in China,was recently reported in Nature Materials.
The recent interest and progress in nanotechnology for applications in healthcare, for instance, demands precise structural control. This new technique could provide a relatively rapid means of scanning for structural integrity, at the very least to ensure quality control in a bulk manufacturing process, for example.
Additionally, because magnesium oxide is an electrical insulator and can be polarized in a high electrical field, it’s a candidate for nanoscale capacitors and possibly supercapacitors, which would further expand the arsenal of materials available for the growing world of nanotechnology.
[Image credits: Nature Publishing Group]
This entry was posted in Singularity and tagged 3D from 2D, 3D model, electron microscopy,nanoparticles, nanotechnology, supercapacitors.