Most Awesome Chemistry Machine at the Photon Factory

This crazy machine is a new kind of microscope that can identify a chemical based on just a few atoms. Awesomely, it sucks up intense X-ray beams from a synchrotron to do it.

Developed by a research team in Japan, this method of magnifying the nanoverse is called Synchrotron Radiation Scanning Tunnelling Microscopy. Testing was a joint effort of the University of Hyogo and the KEK Photon Factory (best name evar). How does it work? According to Physics World:

It involves placing a sample of interest in the intense x ray beam of a synchrotron source.

Photons from the beam excite core electrons in the sample's atoms, which then spit out "secondary" electrons as they decay back down to their ground states. These secondary electrons are then detected by the tip of the scanning tunnelling microscope (STM) as they tunnel across the gap. The size of the current depends on the specific type of atom that has produced the secondary electrons, which means that each element has a unique "fingerprint."

I just want to know why the STM is covered in tinfoil. Or whatever that puffy, shiny stuff is. Also, that is seriously the coolest lab picture ever. Tangled wires! X-rays shooting everywhere! Hopefully somebody will get superpowers out of this.

via Physics World