Today QUEST takes you behind the scenes to see the most powerful microscope in the world, which happens to be in our very own backyard in Berkeley. This transmission electron microscope lives at the National Center for Electron Microscopy, at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. The microscope can produce images of things that are the size of half an atom of hydrogen. And hydrogen has the smallest atoms of any element – so that’s pretty small.

The microscope is so big that it was hauled into the Center on a crane. It’s housed in its own room, which is insulated to maintain an ideal temperature, and it’s mounted on springs to isolate it from vibrations that make images blurry.

The TEAM 0.5, as the microscope is called, excels at producing clear images of atoms sitting side by side. This makes it very useful for the scientists who investigate the properties of the materials that we use to build everyday objects like computers and airplanes. In fact, the images they produce with the microscope may one day help build stronger, lighter airplanes, and smaller, faster computers.

Author

Gabriela Quirós

Gabriela Quirós is a video producer for KQED Science and the coordinating producer for Deep Look. She started her journalism career more than 20 years ago as a newspaper reporter in Costa Rica, where she grew up. She won two national reporting awards there for series on C-sections and organic agriculture, and developed a life-long interest in health reporting. She moved to the Bay Area in 1996 to study documentary filmmaking at the University of California-Berkeley, where she received master’s degrees in journalism and Latin American studies. She joined KQED as a TV producer when its science series QUEST started in 2006 and has covered everything from Alzheimer’s to bee die-offs to dark energy. She has won three regional Emmys and has shared awards from the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Society of Environmental Journalists. Independent from her work in KQED's science unit, she produced and directed the hour-long documentary Beautiful Sin, about the surprising story of how Costa Rica became the only country in the world to outlaw in vitro fertilization. The film aired nationally on public television stations in 2015.

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