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The world’s most powerful microscope is to be built at the Technical University of Denmark. The Environmental Transmission Electron Microscope will be five times more powerful than any existing microscope, and will open up new avenues of research into nanotechnology, according to the university.

Not only will the device make it possible to view details at atom level in 3D, researchers at the university will even be able to see resolutions of 0.07nm — which is equivalent to half a carbon atom.

The microscope was made possible through a private donation of almost £10m from the Moller Foundation, which is the largest single research donation in Danish history. It will be used by around 180 researchers and 50 companies at the university’s Centre for Nanotechnology, and will also be a central part of the university’s new Centre for Electron Nanoscopy.

Scheduled for completion in 2007, the microscope will be kept in a specially designed building to protect it from vibrations, fluctuations in temperature and electrical noise.

Prof Ib Chorkendorff from the nanotechnology department said: ‘It will be a great leap forward for the field of materials research as we will be able to see what happens to the individual atoms when we make changes in materials and give them new properties.’