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Physical Sciences Division
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November 2012

Ilke Arslan Shares Her Views on Electron Tomography in Nature Materials

Congratulations to Dr. Ilke Arslan at Pacific Northwest National Lab and Dr. Eric Stach at Brookhaven National Lab on having their state of electron tomography article published in Nature Materials. The article, "Electron tomography: Seeing atoms in three dimensions," was requested by the journal's editors and appeared online on October 23, 2012.

Electron tomography is a technique used to reconstruct the 3D structure and shape of nanoparticles based on 2D images from electron microscopes. "In writing this article, I enjoyed being able to look at how tomography has evolved from when it started in 2003. The advances are amazing, and they were made possible by collaboration between computer science, physics, and other disciplines," said Arslan.

While significant advances have been made in the last decade, researchers continue to strive towards the ultimate goal: materials science—visualized live, in three dimensions, at the atomic scale. Reaching this goal demands the ability to capture images quickly. It also requires better algorithms that can accurately build 3D models from a small number of images and can work with imperfect images obtained as atoms move around in reactions.

"Being at a national lab is a great place to work towards the goal of 3D in situ imaging," said Arslan. "Through the Chemical Imaging Initiative, we have the collaborative teams necessary to build the tools to obtain images of particles as they undergo reactions.  And through collaborations within the Laboratory on developing new algorithms, we hope to be able to put it all together in 3D." These in situ 3D images could change how scientists understand the influence of processing and other reactions on nanoparticles structure and behavior.

Arslan is an electron tomography expert who was honored in 2009 with a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. A talented speaker, she is a Microscopy Society of America tour speaker, and she teaches a day-long tomography course at the society's annual meeting. She brings together collaborative teams, organizing national symposiums on electron tomography.


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