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Powerful electron microscopes to be unveiled

MEDIA RELEASE 1 December 2004

Powerful electron microscopes to be unveiled by Minister

Two state-of-the art electron microscopes - capable of magnifying samples up to one million times and powerful enough to see atoms - will be officially opened by the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary), the Hon Steve Maharey, at Victoria University on Thursday (2 December).

The MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology has purchased two electron microscopes, each with different applications, in order to carry out analysis of materials specimens at a world-class level. The microscopes are worth more than $1 million each and were funded by the Government through its 2002 capital grant to the Institute, which is one of New Zealand’s seven Centres of Research Excellence.

Director of the Institute, Professor Paul Callaghan, says electron microscopes are a key platform tool and give researchers “fantastic information” about the samples they study.

“Early scientists found that optical microscopes were ultimately restrained by the wavelength of light. This limited what could be observed. After the discovery of electrons, around 70 years ago, it was realised that microscopes with a greater resolution were possible using a beam of electrons rather than a beam of light.

“Electron microscopes are the primary tool for the analysis and characterisation of materials specimens. They enable us to carry out work that was either extremely difficult or impossible in the past. The two new electron microscopes that we have bought are already proving to be a tremendous boost to the scientific community.”

The scanning electron microscope is being widely used by MacDiarmid Institute researchers from six of its seven partner institutions around New Zealand. The transmission electron microscope has just arrived and is already in demand.

Victoria University chemistry students have also been taking advantage of the powerful microscopes during their research projects, and groups of local high school pupils have had sessions with the equipment - introducing future scientists to a very visual and exciting part of physical science.

The MacDiarmid Institute ( is New Zealand's premier research organisation concerned with high quality research and research education in materials science and nanotechnology. More information is available at


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