Bielefeld - First German university with a helium ion microscope
Cutting-edge technology with outstanding features
Bielefeld is the first German university to acquire a state-of-the-art Helium Ion Microscope (HIM) built by the Carl Zeiss company. This radically different helium ion technology delivers five to ten times the resolution of ordinary scanning electron microscopes. With chemical imaging, scientists are able to gather information on the substances composing the materials they are studying while simultaneously also depicting the hidden layers of these materials. This makes it possible to depict complex (material) systems in their entirety and with an exceptionally high resolution (up to 0.35 nanometre; 1 nm = one-thousand-millionth of a metre).
The Zeiss microscope called "ORION" is being managed jointly by two research groups: "Physics of Supermolecular Systems and Surfaces" (Professor Dr. Armin Gölzhäuser) and "Thin Films and Physics of Nanostructures" (Professor Dr. Günter Reiss). However, it will also be accessible for chemists and biologists and not just physicists, thereby boosting microscopic work as a whole in the natural sciences at Bielefeld. In the research group "Physics of Supermolecular Systems and Surfaces", one line of research is developing artificial membranes and two-dimensional nanomaterials for sensor technology. It will use ORION to optimize new kinds of membranes developed by Armin Gölzhäuser that are only 1 nanometre thick. This is dealing with filtration processes or the transformation of the membrane into graphene, a two-dimensional and therefore very promising carbon. The research group "Thin Films and Physics of Nanostructures" is planning to use the HIM for a more detailed exploration of hidden layers in magnetic components. Günter Reiss predicts that this will deliver new impulses for data storage. It is not just physicists and chemists who will profit from the new acquisition. Bio-imaging will also open up new fields of research for Bielefeld's biologists at the Faculty of Biology and the Centre for Biotechnology.
Although helium ion technology is already delivering major findings, it is still only at the beginning of its development. One of the main applications of the forerunners of HIM is quality control in the production of microchips. Bielefeld's HIM should also be used to build up experience with this new technology that can then serve as a basis for its further development. With this goal in mind, Carl Zeiss, represented by Dr. Frank Stietz (manager of Carl Zeiss NTS Oberkochen), and Bielefeld University, represented by the Rektor, Professor Dr.-Ing. Gerhard Sagerer; the Chancellor. Hans-Jürgen Simm; and the two physicists, Professor Armin Gölzhäuser and Professor Günter Reiss, signed a "Memorandum of Understanding" in the Rector's Office on the 9th of July. Rektor Gerhard Sagerer was exceptionally pleased with the new acquisition: "This is a major chance to further consolidate the international reputation of the natural sciences at Bielefeld!"