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New electron microscope captures real-time 3D images

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An electron microscope developed by a team of researchers in Japan can capture real-time 3D images by switching the electron beam quickly between angles.

3D Microscope
3D Microscope

3D movies haven't yet taken off the way TV manufacturers seem to think they will, but similar technology is starting to show up in medical and scientific work. Last week, the Japan Science and Technology Agency announced that a team from Hitachi, Niigata University, and other companies and universities has developed an electron microscope that can show 3D images in real time. Normally, taking a microscopic 3D shot requires merging two images taken at slightly different angles. Now, however, the researchers can briefly switch the direction of the electron beam in order to effectively capture both angles at once. This means scientists can watch a continuous stream of shots from the microscope on a display.

The black-and-white images obtained by an electron microscope are high in detail, but it can still be difficult to analyze the structure of a 2D image. While the new switching process lowers resolution, it could make it much easier to see, for instance, whether a given surface is concave or convex. The display even works with the naked eye, although honestly we wouldn't mind the extra gravitas of some special 3D glasses while doing science.