A Microscope That Can Scan Real-Time Chemical Reactions

A group of MIT researchers have developed a microscope that can scan chemical processes in real-time. The prototype microscope is 2000 times faster and is feasible for recording video.

The drawbacks with current microscopes are that they are too slow to create anything but images that are static. This makes them useless for practices like chemical responses. However, there are atomic-force microscopes that can visualize even the smallest atomic structure down to its hydrogen bonds.

A group of MIT researchers were able to create a prototype microscope that they say is 2000 times faster in comparison to ordinary microscopes that makes it feasible for video recording. MIT professor, Kamal Youcef-Toumi, stated that through the prototype microscope, people can see chemical reactions in real-time like deposition, dissolution, nucleation and condensation processes, things that are never seen before through ordinary microscopes.

Current commercially-manufactured atomic force microscopes simply drags a small needle over an edifice to scan its structure. It can take up to 10 minutes to scan a whole image. Iman Soltani Bozchalooi's prototype microscope embeds a small rapid scanner and a large scanner that works together to scan a wide three-dimensional area in a matter of seconds.

Bozchalooi said that their controller can move the small scanner in a way that it does not affect the large scanner because they know what triggers the scanner motions. In the end, both scanners work together and it looks like a large-range high-speed scanner from a scientist's perspective. As a result, the prototype can scan an estimated 4000 lines per second that yields a frame rate of about 8-10 fps.

This MIT-made prototype scanning device could help researchers and scientists alike to visualize chemical processes. It can also make breakthroughs in the many fields of science like medicine, material science, and even batteries.

At the moment, the institute's team of researchers are working on speeding up the prototype microscope to enable it to record video at a frame rate of 30 fps.

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