Imperial College London has unveiled the Titan 80-300 S/TEM from FEI, one of the only instruments capable of viewing and analysing individual atoms and the bonds that join them.

Imperial College London

has unveiled one of the


’s most powerful microscopes, the Titan 80-300 S/TEM from FEI. It is the world’s most powerful commercially-available scanning/transmission electron microscopes and one of the only instruments capable of viewing and analyzing individual atoms and the bonds which join them.

The Titan’s capabilities enable researchers to ‘see’ the detail of atoms’ interfaces, structures, boundaries and defects in a wide range of materials. According to a statement, this will lead to a greater understanding of the chemical, biological, structural, electronic or magnetic properties in a number of materials and structures for the development and commercialization of new nano-enabled technologies.

The UK’s first Titan allows the London Centre for Nanotechnology (LCN), an interdisciplinary collaboration between Imperial College London and University College London (UCL), to provide a world-class nano-characterisation facility for the first time. LCN can now offer scientists the opportunity to view and analyse material at a resolution smaller than half a nanometre.

The Titan will support a range of nanotechnology research projects in medical, pharmaceutical and materials science. These include understanding the processes which influence degenerative brain diseases, developing lightweight aircraft materials to reduce fuel consumption, and researching quantum dots as a way to increase the communication bandwidth available from fibre-optic cables. The multi-million dollar microscope was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council following a joint submission from Imperial College, University College London and the London Centre for Nanotechnology.

The FEI Titan family currently offers world's most powerful, commercially-available transmission electron microscope (TEM). Since its release in 2005, the Titan has been widely acclaimed both for its ability to deliver ground-breaking results and for its superior product design. It has rapidly become the preferred S/TEM of leading researchers around the world, enabling discovery and exploration down to sub-Ångström resolution in both TEM and S/TEM modes.


The FEI TITAN will allow researchers to view and study the impurity atoms responsible for the quantum bits, manipulated in silicon-based quantum computers. These computers are devices which will use the correlated movements of electrons to do complex calculations in fields such as cryptography. The microscopy of the TITAN will allow scientists to view individual impurities in their native environment and thereby to understand and improve their function in a quantum computer.

Similarly, scientists at Imperial will use the FEI TITAN to understand how carbon nanotubes grow so that they can be developed for specific applications. Carbon nanotubes have the highest strength and thermal conductivity of any known material. Many of these properties depend on the specific atomic structure of different nanotubes. However, scientists have too little control over the growth process. By understanding the relationship between nanotube structure and metal catalysts used for synthesis, it may be possible to find ways to produce nanotubes with specific structures, designed for individual applications.

‘Finally we have a true nano-analytical facility in a single instrument,’ commented Imperial’s Dr. David McComb. ‘We can now see the atom, we can identify the atom and we can determine how it is coordinated to the atoms around it – this will enable us to make major advances in establishing the relationship between structure and properties in systems such as biomedical materials, materials for renewable energy and electronic materials.’