Sensitive microscope

Published: Wednesday 15 December 1999

Although electron microscopes have been of tremendous assistance to scientists, one problem is that they 'murder' the subject under study because the devices work in a vacuum. Researchers at the University of California in San Diego, USA, have developed a more delicate way of studying the tiny forms of life. The new system relies on an intense -- though harmless -- laser burst that illuminates the subject being studied. Atoms in the specimen resonate in response to the laser and generate a pulse of light. By sweeping a laser though the subject and plotting the returning signals, scientists can create a detailed image without killing the subject ( Discover , Vol 20, No 10).

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