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Science

An Electron Microscope For Your Home? 125

Posted by Soulskill
from the take-two-they're-small dept.
CuteSteveJobs writes "Could microscopy be in for a new golden age? Wired previewed the desktop-sized Hitachi TM-1000 Electron Microscope a while back. Light microscopes can magnify up to 400X (1,000X at lower quality) — just enough to see bacteria as shapes — but this one offers 20X to 10,000X, giving some amazing pictures. Unlike traditional electron microscopes, this one plugs into a domestic power socket and specimens don't need any special preparation; it's point-and-shoot, much like your typical digital camera. So easy a grade-schooler could use it, and earlier this year that's what happened: The kids at Iwanuma Elementary School in Miyagi, Japan got their own electron microscope. At $60,000, you'll have to give up on the BMW, but the hope is with economy of scale (so far 1,000 have sold) and miniaturization, the price will continue to drop. The only bad news? It runs XP."
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An Electron Microscope For Your Home?

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  • by jimicus (737525) on Sunday October 11, 2009 @08:59AM (#29710841)

    The PDF file linked shows that it generates images in BMP, JPEG and TIFF format.

  • by blind biker (1066130) on Sunday October 11, 2009 @09:20AM (#29710933) Journal

    It's a lot of fun mostly because of its ease of use. I'm pretty sure a 7-year old would have no problems using it correctly after only an hour or two of training. Another plus is that it can be configured with an EDS device for (relatively speaking) peanuts. And it is just as easy to operate as the TM-1000.

    But don't kid yourself: the quality of the images trails far behind the more serious equipment like, for instance, the Zeiss SUPRA series [zeiss.com]. I'm not saying this to be a dick; the difference is striking. With the TM-1000 you really do get what you pay for, and on bad days it seems only marginally better than an optical microscope.

  • by geekmux (1040042) on Sunday October 11, 2009 @10:07AM (#29711145)

    "...The only bad news? It runs XP."

    OK, don't get me wrong, I'm all for a good old fashioned bashing against the almighty iSteve with my Ballmer signature series chair thrower, but c'mon, seriously? Do we have to consider every damn application that runs XP a bad thing?

    Seems the "damned" OS has managed to survive in the corporate world years past Vista (we're STILL ordering brand-new systems with XP), and Netbooks have seen their own resurgence of support for the aging yet stable and predictable OS.

    I run a Macbook for school. What do I have loaded on Fusion? Yup, you guessed it. XP, for when I MUST run a Windows app. Every student comes marching in every year with a new Vista or OSX-loaded laptop, yet my entire computer lab is still running...yup, right again. Good ol' XP. Old, yet functional.

    And rounding out this volley back to the subject at hand, some simple applications (like a microscope) I would rather NOT have to worry about the bullshit bloat of some other OS, especially when you consider your target audience is USED to seeing XP.

  • the summary is wrong (Score:5, Informative)

    by myc (105406) on Sunday October 11, 2009 @10:18AM (#29711205)

    On a research grade light microscope, the maximum magnification one can get without loss of resolution is roughly 1500x - 1600x, not 400x as the summary suggests. Also, resolution of the image has nothing to do with magnification; the numerical aperture (N.A.) of the objective lens determines the resolution.

  • by deglr6328 (150198) on Sunday October 11, 2009 @10:46AM (#29711345)

    FYI Slashdot, one of this decade's genuine breakthroughs in science has been finally breaking the diffraction limit for visible light microscopy. The results in the past couple years alone have been nothing short of stunning. Specifically the techniques which are capable of doing this are confocal microscopy, near-field scanning microscopy, stimulated emission depletion microscopy, stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy and structured illumination microscopy [arstechnica.com]. All of these techniques use visible light and can image at below the diffraction limit of ~250nm resolution, but most use complicated techniques using lasers etc. to do so. Except that last one, structured illumination. This technology is going to literally revolutionize microscopy and probably biology as a whole in the coming years. It is a very clever technique and produces unbefuckingleivably amazing [wikipedia.org] images [wikipedia.org]. With it, full 3D reconstructions of individual living cells with ~10 nanometer resolution, at frame rates in the several Hz range can be taken using a relatively simple LCD retrofit to a high quality transmission light microscope which is installed between the light source and the stage. Look at some of these movies taken [nature.com] of cell processes using the technique and try to keep your jaw off the floor. While the resolution may be higher, none of this is possible with SEM or TEMs due to the necessity of imaging in vacuo.

  • Re:sample prep? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Moridin42 (219670) on Sunday October 11, 2009 @01:43PM (#29712389)

    I know its asking a lot to bother reading the summary, let alone non-/. information on the device.. but no. You don't need nasty solvents and sputter coating with this particular model.

  • by ccbailey (859060) on Sunday October 11, 2009 @03:27PM (#29712915) Homepage

    Since I seem to oscillate between looking at TEM images and doing confocal microscopy these days, allow me to chime in here.

    Apart from resolution, there are two factors that make EM useful in a way that light microscopy techniques never will be. Namely, that they allow you to look at an entire specimen at once and at the same time see things you weren't looking for. The pretty color images confocal images are made by tagging particular structures in the cell with fluorescent molecules. This is done either with fluorochrome labeled antibodies or by expressing proteins fused to fluorescent proteins. Therefore, you have to know what you're looking for in order to make a picture of it. Furthermore due to the overlap in the emission spectra of the fluorescent tracers, you can generally only look at about 3 things simultaneously. So if you want to see all the structures in a cell at once or you're looking for something, like a virus, but don't know which one or don't have an antibody for it, EM is still the tool of choice.

  • Make one ! (Score:2, Informative)

    by hebertrich (472331) on Sunday October 11, 2009 @04:07PM (#29713221)

    Want one ?
    The very serious " The Amateur Scientist " column in Scientific American in the
    early 70's had detailed plans on how to make an electron microscope.
    A do it yourself project. With a teacher , we had built one of them and it turned out
    very interresting images. Just a thought.

  • Uh... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Legion303 (97901) on Sunday October 11, 2009 @07:55PM (#29714553) Homepage

    "It runs XP."

    No it doesn't. Perhaps submitters should start looking at what they're submitting. I know it's a lot to ask.

Mediocrity finds safety in standardization. -- Frederick Crane

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