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November 11, 2008, 7:53 pm

"Super microscope" ready to go

The world's newest "super microscope", known as a pulsed neutron source, is ready to investigate materials at the atomic level - it will be able to show the positioning, spacing, and even the forces between the individual atoms!

[BBC News]

When neutrons are fired at a sample of material, they bounce off the atoms inside and shoot off in different directions onto a recording device. By recording the angles the neutrons make as they scatter, the atomic structure of the sample can be deduced, without cutting it up.

In other words, scientists can see a cross-section of the material in its natural state.

And it is not simply a "still" photograph that can be obtained - recordings can be made over time, or with changes in temperature or other variables too! So, what you can see is a molecular video!

What experiments are being planned?

- examining how spiders and silk worms make fibres that are stronger than any man-made materials is just one of the projects in line.