• Question: How do you study neutrons under a microscope?

    Asked by anon-357541 to Rosa on 28 Mar 2023.
    • Photo: Rosa Sanchez-Lucas

      Rosa Sanchez-Lucas answered on 28 Mar 2023:

      I’m pretty sure that this question is for the physics zone but I will try to answered.
      Atoms are too small to visualise them using optical (photons) or electronic microscope (electrons) so scientist created a tunneling microscope.

      An atom consists of a nucleus with a certain number of protons and neutrons, and a large space reserved for electrons, which move around the nucleus. As they are attracted to the nucleus, the electrons have some freedom to move to another nucleus if the atom is close enough and has the right electromagnetic charge. Curiously, we do not fully know how this transfer takes place, but our equations indicate that there is no intermediate step, that the electron practically teleports from one atom to another. This phenomenon is called the tunneling effect.

      The tunneling microscope uses a tip of a conductive metal, so sharp that it has only one or two atoms at its end. This is placed on a flat surface but at a certain distance, without touching it. Far enough away so that the tunnel effect does not occur. When the microscope is activated, the tip begins to move horizontally. If it encounters an atom protruding from the flat surface, the distance between the tip and the atom will be smaller and electrons will be transported from the atom to the tip, receiving a signal. In this way, as the tip moves we can map the surface.

      I’m pretty sure that currently, there are new and powerful electronic microscopes, but I finish the degree 10 years ago…and foccused on plant research