The Science and Technology Research Council's (STFC) Daresbury Laboratory in Cheshire, UK has revealed a new super-powerful electron microscope that can pinpoint even single atoms.

The powerful Nion Hermes Scanning Transmission Electron Microscope, dubbed SuperSTEM 3, is one of only three in the world and also the first in the UK with this unique ability. The device costs an estimated £3.7 million and is kept in the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) SuperSTEM facility at Daresbury.

The SuperSTEM is sustained by a number of collaborating institutions such as the Universities of Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Oxford and Manchester.

The microscope has the ability to pinpoint atoms that are a million times smaller than the human hair, thereby opening avenues for research in many fields.

The instrument has the potential to identify atoms in a material and at the same time detect the bonding strength between them. Understanding the bonding strength will also allow scientists to have a clearer picture of the electronic properties of the atoms.

The SuperSTEM 3 has been applauded by a number of industry experts who believe that the microscope can be very helpful in certain fields such as power generation, advanced materials science and health care.

"The UK is a world leader in the development and application of STEM (Scanning Transition Electron Microscope) techniques, and this new super-powerful microscope will ensure we remain world-class," said Greg Clark, Minister for Universities, Science & Cities.

Clark believes that the SuperSTEM 3 will aid UK scientists to develop innovative materials that can be used for traveling in space. The powerful microscope can also help in reducing treatment costs in the medical industry. New research, with the help of the microscope, may also yield positive results in the study of environmental science.

Philip Nelson, chief executive of the EPSRC, hopes that the latest device leads to innovations, which can benefit the UK economy and society.

The EPSRC is the key funding agency for research in physical sciences and engineering. The agency invests about £800 million each year for postgraduate training and research.

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