Stunning colour pictures of very tiny objects such as insects or particles of dust, magnified to look life size, are the product of a revolutionary CSIRO - Dindima joint project which has just been commercialised by the Australian company, Dindima.
The system will have a major impact on how scanning electron micrographs (SEMs) are used, and will have as a market thousands of electron microscopes around the world.
An SEM of a common housefly resembles a science fiction monster and a particle of pollen looks like a multi-patterned beachball. The technique allows very minute details to become visible, which has a myriad of applications in science.
"The images are produced by a scanning electron microscope which bombards an object with a focussed beam of electrons. Some of these electrons are reflected and others are knocked out of the object. They are detected and collected to produce an image on a standard computer screen," says Mr John Ward, from CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products, one of the developers of the new system.
"Conventional imaging in the scanning electron microscope is black and white. It has been a goal of developers to produce an efficient, economic and meaningful way of colourising the images for a long time," Mr Ward says.
"The advantage of using colour is that it can increase the information content of the image and enhance the interpretation of results. Basically if you have a scientific picture and it is all in shades of grey, it limits what the eye can interpret."
Mr Ward collaborated with Mr Graham Rundell at Dindima to develop the software.
"There have been other colourising methods used in the past, but most were done using analogue technology. We weren't able to get very high resolution, so the effect was rather crude. These methods also required an extra piece of hardware to be attached to the machine, which was relatively expensive."
"Our new system is digital and can deliver far better picture quality than ever before. It gives the operator more ability to manipulate the colours together with the means to combine information from two images into a single more informative colour image. This will result in easier interpretation of results, make it easier to use and be more accessable for a wider range of applications," Mr Ward says.
"Also, as it is software based, rather than hardware, it will be cheaper for people to buy and will run on the average home PC," Mr Ward says.
Mr Ward believes that the system also gives rise to a new art form and the spectacular images will have wider applications than scientific research.
"We are often asked to supply pictures for school text books (they always ask if we can supply them in colour), book covers, advertising and the media," Mr Ward says.
Mr John Ward, CSIRO, 03 9545 2222 or 03 9545 2355, email [email protected] Chew, Managing Director, Dindima, 03 9873 4455
Electronic versions of the pictures are available - contact John Ward or Rosie Schmedding, email [email protected]
Editor's Note: The original news release, which shows samples of the pictures, can be found at http://www.csiro.au/news/mediarel/mr1998/mr9856.html.
The above story is based on materials provided by CSIRO Australia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
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