The electron beam passes through a screen and is transformed into a vortex beam.
(Credit: Image courtesy of Vienna University of Technology, TU Vienna)

Electron Microscopes With a Twist:
Vortex Beams,
Rotating Like a Tornado,
Offer New Possibilities for Electron Microscopy

ScienceDaily (Nov. 5, 2012) — Vortex beams, rotating like a tornado, offer completely new possibilities for electron microscopy. A method of producing extremely intense vortex beams has been discovered at the Vienna University of Technology (TU Vienna).

Nowadays, electron microscopes are an essential tool, especially in the field of materials science. At TU Vienna, electron beams are being created that possess an inner rotation, similarly to a tornado. These “vortex beams” cannot only be used to display objects, but to investigate material-specific properties — with precision on a nanometer scale. A new breakthrough in research now allows scientists to produce much more intense vortex beams than ever before.

Quantum Tornado: the Electron as a Wave

In a tornado, the individual air particles do not necessarily rotate on their own axis, but the air suction overall creates a powerful rotation. The rotating electron beams that have been generated at TU Vienna behave in a very similar manner. In order to understand them, we should not think of electrons simply as minuscule points or pellets, as in that case they could at most rotate on their own axis. Vortex beams, on the other hand, can only be explained in terms of quantum physics: the electrons behave like a wave, and this quantum wave can rotate like a tornado or a water current behind a ship’s propeller.

Read more: Electron microscopes with a twist: Vortex beams, rotating like a tornado, offer new possibilities for electron microscopy — Science Daily.

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