Researchers at the NRC's Nanotechnology Research Centre in Edmonton have built the world's first open‑source transmission electron microscope (TEM), from scratch. Developed over a 2‑year period, the project was born from the need to adapt microscopes to fulfill very particular demands in research projects, in a cost‑effective way‑similar to what the hot rod era did for cars in the automobile industry.
The project is called NanoMi. Mi is the Japanese kanji character 美 meaning beauty, but Mi also refers to 見, which means to see or look. Microscopy is the ultimate gateway to exploring images of objects that are part of our natural world in order to better understand the beauty around us—and NanoMi will make that exploration more accessible.
The project is a low‑cost microscope with open‑source software that all scientific, industry and academic users can use to build and customize equipment to fit their needs and application, while contributing to advancements in electron microscopy (EM). NanoMi will allow users the freedom to assemble their own transmission electron microscope column, scanning TEM (STEM) column, or scanning electron microscope (SEM) column.
NanoMi consists of 2 parts: (1) the microscope, which can be built using commercially available components following blueprints; these can be obtained by contacting Mark Salomons, and (2) the open‑source software for acquiring and processing images from the microscope, available now.
- 50 kilovolt, 10 nanometre resolution microscope that can be built affordably by users with the provided designs
- The electron beam path and the individual components can be moved to the desired configuration
- A commercial JEOL electron gun was used for the first prototype (electron guns are commercially available and need to be acquired separately)
- Piezoelectric movers were designed to move apertures and samples in the beam path
- The design uses Einzel electrostatic lenses
- Electrostatic stigmators were used to shape the beam
- The deflectors are an electrostatic double‑plate assembly to deflect the beam
- This ultra‑high vacuum microscope can be added to any system affordably and provides a hardware sandbox to perform unique experiments
A key goal of the NanoMi project is to establish the framework for community development of electron microscopy technology. It can also provide education in EM, which is usually limited by high costs. NanoMi performs economically and efficiently, leaving more resources for experiments or business operations. It can be fully customized to meet the needs of its users, unlike commercial units that cannot be modified without risking the warranty and performance of the product.
NanoMi is a fully practical tool meant for scientific discovery, the advancement of EM science and public good. It increases accessibility of EM tools to industry and is also intended as a vehicle to help build scientific capacity in Indigenous or remote communities and developing countries.