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Scanning Tunnelling Microscope, Cambridge, England, 1986

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Scanning Tunnelling Microscopes (STMs) were first developed in 1986. STMs allowed scientists to see individual atoms for the first time. STMs work when electrons ‘jump’ between the microscope and what is being examined. Unfortunately, microscopes that use electrons can damage what is being investigated. STM technology was developed by Gerd Binnig (b. 1947) and Heinrich Rohrer (b. 1933). They won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1986. Made by W A Technology Ltd in Cambridge, England, this model was the first commercially produced Scanning Tunnelling Microscope.

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Glossary: microscopy

The use of microscopes to study objects or samples. The three major types of microscopy are optical, electron and scanning probe microscopy.

Glossary: scanning tunnelling microscope

Scanning tunneling microscope (STM) is a non-optical microscope that scans an electrical probe over a surface to be imaged to detect a weak electric current flowing between the tip and the surface