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Valuable donation in kind to Eckental secondary school

Learning with an electron microscope

Lauf, 2016-07-27

Physics coordinator Holger Rösler and Julian König, former Deputy Head Clemens Berthold, Mayor Ilse Dölle,
Jürgen Böttcher from CeramTec, District Administrator Gabriele Klaußner and Bernd Bitterlich, Head of R&D at CeramTec with students and the electron microscope as principal Friedrich Arnet cuts the ribbon.

The ceramics experts from CeramTec in Lauf support Eckental secondary school with donation in kind. The school was officially presented with an electron microscope (EM), previously used by the company itself, on July 13, 2016, making it of only a few schools in Germany to have such a microscope.

CeramTec used the microscope at its Lauf location from 1985 to 2009. After the R&D department purchased a new, more advanced microscope, the existing model was used less and less, and most recently not at all. As part of CeramTec’s commitment to sustainability and responsibility toward the community – including supporting social causes – disposing of and scrapping the electron microscope was out of the question. The company therefore researched alternative options for repurposing the microscope.

Eckental secondary school took advantage of the unique opportunity offered to it and took on the microscope at the beginning of the year. Gerhard Zierau, who operated and maintained the microscope at CeramTec, trained physics coordinator Holger Rösler and his colleague Julian König on how to operate the EM. The school offered its first microscopy course with the EM in May. Students most recently observed a nail and a wasp at 10,000x magnification.

“This opens the door to a new, microcosmic dimension,” said principal Friedrich Arnet at the presentation of the EM and thanked CeramTec, represented by Dr. Bernd Bitterlich, Head of Development, Gerhard Zierau, Development/EM operator, and Jürgen Böttcher, Head of Technical Development. Eckental secondary school plans to use the microscope in physics and biology classes, as well as for seminars and “Jugend Forscht” youth science programs. Guests at the official presentation included District Administrator Armin Kroder as well as the Mayor of Eckental, Ilse Dölle.

The electron microscope was invented in 1937 by Manfred von Ardenne. Its high price tag reflects the complex inner workings: It uses a fine electron beam to focus on the surface of the object. This requires a high vacuum environment to avoid interaction with atoms and molecules in the air. The sample must be conductive, and so is covered with a very thin layer of gold. Solenoids are used to focus the electron beam on a specific point of the object to be examined. The electron beam makes contact with the sample and relays a signal that provides information about its composition. The resulting high-resolution images can be viewed on a monitor.