Timelapse: installment microscope of 1500 kg

New microscope scans quantum materials at ultra-low temperature.

This winter, physics researcher Ingmar Swart and his team installed a very special microscope in the Bloembergen building at Utrecht Science Park. This scanning tunneling microscope uses an ultra-high vacuum at ultra-low temperatures to make and study quantum materials atom-by-atom.

The ultra-low temperatures are needed to properly scan the materials: atoms vibrate more slowly at lower temperatures, so the samples are cooled to -278.8 degrees Celcius, only 0.3 degrees above absolute zero. Also, to minimise interference from air molecules, the samples are brought to an almost perfect vacuum, with an air pressure of about ten thousand billion times lower than that of the air we breathe. The total setup weighs about 1500 kg.