A new report in Nature reveals an incredible breakthrough that will have huge consequences on any field you could think of.
Scientists can now X-Ray even a single atom to figure out what it’s made of, which will enable a lot of progress in fields such as quantum information and the detection of trace elements for environmental and medical research.
Ohio News explains why this was such a major challenge:
“Since its discovery by Roentgen in 1895, X-rays have been used everywhere, from medical examinations to security screenings in airports. Even Curiosity, NASA’s Mars rover, is equipped with an X-ray device to examine the materials composition of the rocks in Mars. An important usage of X-rays in science is to identify the type of materials in a sample. Over the years, the quantity of materials in a sample required for X-ray detection has been greatly reduced thanks to the development of synchrotron X-rays sources and new instruments. To date, the smallest amount one can X-ray a sample is in attogram, that is about 10,000 atoms or more. This is due to the X-ray signal produced by an atom being extremely weak so that the conventional X-ray detectors cannot be used to detect it. According to Hla, it is a long-standing dream of scientists to X-ray just one atom, which is now being realized by the research team led by him.”
other related findings here.
The breakthrough was made by a team of researchers from Ohio University, Argonne National Laboratory, the University of Illinois-Chicago, and others, under the guidance of Saw Wai Hla, an Ohio University Professor of Physics and Argonne National Laboratory scientist.
You can read how they developed such an accurate instrument over the past 12 years and their other related findings here.