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Looking Inside Nanoparticles: The Exact Position Of 23,000 Atoms Pinpointed In An Iron Platinum Nanoparticle

First Posted: Feb 06, 2017 04:53 AM EST
Looking Inside Nanoparticles
A new and advanced transmission electron microscope (TEM) enables tracking each and every atom of a nanoparticle.
(Photo : Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)/YouTube screenshot)

Nanotechnology has revolutionized humans' approach towards medicine, physics, computers, information technology and robotics. The key point in the application of nanotechnology in diversified fields is the production of a nanoparticle, which has the desired structure and function. Scientists have been trying to find out a method that can allow access to assess and modify the structure and properties of nanoparticles. It seems that scientists have found out how it can be done.

One of the world's highest-resolution transmission electron microscopes (TEM), called TEAM I, which is housed at the National Center for Electron Microscopy, was used by the scientists of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and UCLA, to study the individual positioning of 23,000 atoms inside a 8.4 nm wide particle of iron and platinum.

Seeker reported that the study findings, which was led by Peter Ercius and Jianwei Miao, got published in Nature, a leading scientific journal. The size of the nanoparticle studied was so small that it could fit into the cell wall of a single cell. Many people would not even understand the need of studying the inside of such a small thing, which would not be even visible using a routinely used microscope.

Michael Farle, from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany, explained this in a News and Views article published in the Nature journal. "At the nanoscale, every atom counts," Farle wrote.

"For example, changing the relative positions of a few Fe and Pt atoms in a FePt nanoparticle dramatically alters the particle's properties, such as its response to a magnetic field," Farle explained.

The extraordinary achievement in nanotechnology could be accomplished with the help of highly advanced electron microscopy, which uses electron beams to scan the inside of the specimen in a manner that is not possible with any other technology or instruments till now, Lab Manager reported.

Finding out the chemical nature and positioning of each element can not only provide scientists with the power to manipulate them but also devise new and innovative nanomaterials by integrating different elements to produce nanoparticles with the desired function. This will in turn help in the design and manufacture of nanoscale parts and devices, which can be integrated for the production of next-generation hard drives for computers and robots.

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