High-speed electronics for a
multibeam scanning electron microscope

Together in a consortium with Thermo Fisher, Delft University of Technology and Delmic, Technolution Advance has developed an innovative electron microscope, the FAST-EM. It scans simultaneously with 64 electron beams, making the device up to a hundred times faster than a regular scanning electron microscope with a single beam. The FAST-EM is being assembled by Delmic and offers new possibilities for scientific and medical institutions.

Imaging and analysis

A regular scanning electron microscope (SEM) can visualize a sample with an resolution of nanometers (one billionth of a meter). This is the reason that making a scan with a single electron beam SEM is very time-consuming. Scanning a full sample completely can take days or even weeks. The new FAST-EM reduces this period to a few hours thanks to the simultaneous scans performed by 64 electron beams. We developed algorithms for imaging and analysis to create accurate images of the samples that are of sufficient quality for medical and scientific purposes.

High-speed electronics

The scanning process generates huge data streams, since the FAST-EM scans multiple Gigabits per second. Technolution Advance developed high-speed electronics for the detection and for the data transport that together form the camera of the FAST-EM. Furthermore, for the analysis, processing and saving of the immense quantities of scan data we are developing a dedicated data platform, consisting of a data storage system with software and firmware. Even during the acquisition phase, this acquisition system analyses and organizes the data from 64 channels into a coherent picture, before it is saved. This makes the data seamlessly accessible for further analysis, allowing users faster and easier access to the data.

Further development

Delmic’s FAST-EM has now been implemented succesfully by early adopters, such as the University Medical Center Groningen and Delft University of Technology. The speed of the scanner offers new possibilities for research. The UMCG is using the FAST-EM to realize an atlas of the human body, which allows easy retrieval of characteristic properties and prominent elements of medical samples. The Delft University of Technology utilizes the FAST-EM for brain research and the research into the pathogenesis of brain diseases.

The consortium will continue the further development of the FAST-EM. Besides Technolution Advance’s data platform and other projects, Delmic is developing a cutting robot for automated preparation and scanning of the thousands of samples that are required for doing detailed 3D scans.

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