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Russian scientists develop 3-D nano-scale microscope

By combining several well-known microscopic methods, Russian nano-biotechnologists have developed an instrument that allows them to research the three-dimensional structure of objects and their optical properties on a nano-scale. They described their innovation in an article published in the journal ACS Nano.

A scanning microscope is traditionally used to research nanostructure, under which the object is examined using a sharp probe. However, this method only produces a two-dimensional image and does not permit research into the three-dimensional structure of an object.

Anton Yefimov, the founder of Skolkovo resident company SNOTRA, has found a way to overcome this limitation. This is achieved by slicing an object into the thinnest possible layers and, then, scanning each one separately. When combined, the resulting data provides a representation of the structure of a three-dimensional object.

Together with scientists from the MIFI nano-bioengineering laboratory at the National University of Nuclear Research, Yefimov’s company has developed an instrument that not only scans the layers but also carries out a spectroscopy on them. This means that the composition of an object can be defined in terms of whether it reflects or absorbs light.

One of the authors of this work, Konstantin Mochalov from MIFI, explained: “We have created an instrument that combines a 3-D microscope with nano-scale resolution and microspectroscopy, which provides a qualitative analysis of an object. Thus, we are able to study three-dimensional nano-materials fully and determine how they are arranged, what they are made of and what their properties are.”

The head of the laboratory, Igor Nabiev, is certain that this technology will be in demand to control nano-materials production, medicines and diagnostics, as well as to monitor the progress of recovery. For example, it is possible with the help of this technology to research slices of living tissue and see how the molecules of a medicine are spreading through it.

Currently, the microscope consists of separate apparatus. The next task is to combine it into a single instrument. In the long-term, the scientists are planning to find a company interested in producing this equipment. 

2013-09-11, Russia Beyond The Headlines.

Keywords: biotechnologies, nanotechnologies, science

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