The development of an advanced scanning electron microscope at the University was placed on the list of “100 Recovery Acts that are Changing America,” according to a report released Friday by Vice President Joe Biden.
The project is a collaboration between research scientists at the University’s Institute for Advanced Materials, Devices and Nanotechnology and Seattle-based Nion, Co. to extend the very latest electron microscope equipment so it can see atoms and their vibrations, said Philip Batson, principle investigator and research professor at the University.
“With Recovery Act projects like these, we’re starting to turn the page on a decade of failed economic policies and rebuild our economy on a new foundation that creates good middle class jobs for American families,” Biden said in a statement.
The three-year project will result in an optimized electron microscope on site at the University that can investigate materials with practical energy-related applications, said Batson, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University.
The information gleaned from the microscope can help in making more energy-efficient batteries, faster transistors and conversion of light into electricity, he said.
“This is a project that is right on the leading edge of what we’re able to do with the instrumentation,” Batson said. “I’m hopeful that it will influence the direction that instrumentation takes in the future.”
The National Science Foundation gave $2 million to fund the project based on a poll of experts in the field, said Sean Jones, NSF program officer who oversaw the award.
“Many scientists found this project to be a very important development in transmission electron microscopy,” Jones said. “It has the highest energy resolution in the world right now and can create high-resolution imaging at very low voltages. It will have a lot of capabilities beneficial to the field.”
Batson is developing the microscope with Fred Cosandey, a professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Jing Li, a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, and Sang Cheong, a professor in the Department of Physics.
“It really is a partnership between the scientists at Rutgers and those at Nion in Seattle,” Batson said. “Most of the intellectual development goes on at Nion with their 12 employees who devise the electron optical design. Here at Rutgers we’ll contract out the building equipment and then ship it to Seattle.”
Although only a few people are working on the microscope, the project will create more high-tech jobs, which is part of the reason the Obama administration recognized it among other projects that will help the U.S. economy, according to a University Media Relations press release.
“It was a surprise. In retrospect it makes sense,” Batson said. “We’re doing this with a very small number of people in a start up company, but it’s fundamental to our economy. It’s an opportunity for a small American company to influence the field and hopefully grow and provide jobs for the future.”
The project began on April 1 and is projected to be on site at the University in the summer of 2012 with the last year of the project dedicated to testing, Batson said.
“I’m pretty sure the microscope isn’t something students will come across in their studies here, but it will definitely be beneficial to the Institute of Advance Materials, Devices and Nanotechnology,” said Sean Quinn, a School of Engineering senior and employee at the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. “It’s a pretty secretive thing that will make Rutgers a leading university in the field of microscopy.”
The report contains acts that best exemplify the work funded through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, said Rick Weiss, director of Strategic Communications at the White House. The funds from the act are going to the University through the NSF.
“It’s a tremendously exciting field. We can do things with this microscope that we’ve never been able to do,” Batson said. “We’re hoping to influence this field throughout the world.”