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Forschungszentrum Jülich - Annual Report 2011

43 CreatingKnowledge W ith the Ernst Ruska Centre (ER-C), we in North Rhine- Westphalia have a centre of excellence for atomic-res- olution electron microscopy and spec- troscopy on the highest international level, and we are the envy of many be- cause of it. This is something we should be proud of,” said Dr. Beate Wieland, head of Research and Technology at the NRW Ministry of Science. These were her words at the official launch of an electron microscope that is unique in Europe at the Ernst Ruska Centre (ER-C) on 29 February 2012. The instrument known as PICO does not just correct spherical aberration but also an additional lens error – chromatic aberra- tion – and thus achieves a record reso- lution of fifty picometres (one picometre = one billionth of a millimetre). Sharper and more precise PICO provides scientists with insights into the world of atoms, which are es- sential if scientists are to selectively in- tervene and develop new materials, for example. Compared to the last genera- tion of electron microscopes, the im- proved resolution also means increased precision in measuring atomic distances and atomic displacements from five picometres to only one. Even if improvements in the range of a bil- lionth of a millimetre may seem minus- cule, atomic displacements in this di- mension are in fact fundamentally important for the electronic, optical and mechanical properties of materials. “Such tiny changes in the position of at- oms determine the properties of mod- ern transistors, for example,” says Prof. Rafal Dunin-Borkowski, one of the two directors at ER-C and also director of Forschungszentrum Jülich’s Peter Grün- berg Institute 5. Ferroelectric data stor- age devices, such as those contained in chip cards or in some electronic car keys, are another example. When infor- mation is written to these devices, the oxygen ions in the material change their position with respect to neighbouring at- oms by about twenty picometres. “We use PICO to address global chal- lenges, such as an energy-efficient in- formation technology or a climate-smart energy supply,” says Prof. Joachim Mayer from RWTH Aachen University and second director of ER-C. For exam- ple, the scientists are exploring materi- als for zero-carbon power plants and for photovoltaics. The microscopes are not just avail- able to Forschungszentrum Jülich and RWTH Aachen University, who jointly operate ER-C; external users from sci- ence and industry can also avail of them. The German federal government, the federal state of North Rhine-West- phalia, the German Research Founda- tion (DFG) and the Helmholtz Associa- tion provided funds to the tune of €15 million for PICO and a new building. Unique Insights with the Best Electron Microscopes of our Time A look inside PICO. The two Ernst Ruska Centre employees put into perspective the size of this electron microscope, which is unique in Europe.