More information from microscopy images by computing power

The first meeting of the Helmholtz Ptychography 4.0 Incubator Project took place at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) on November 27, 2019. Seven Helmholtz Centres intend to jointly develop advanced image data analysis and processing methods in order to extract more information from electron and X-ray microscopy images. In particular, the approach will be to use “virtual lenses” to correct imaging errors and thus considerably increase the resolution of images.

Ptychography 4.0 is one of the pilot projects of the Helmholtz Association’s Incubator programme in the field of information and data sciences and is being funded with almost 1.7 million euro by the Initiative and Networking Fund of the President of the Helmholtz Association. The individual participating Helmholtz Centres will be contributing matching funds.

“Ptychography 4.0 is a project in which we are working towards considerably increasing the resolution of electron microscopy as well as X-ray microscopy by correcting imaging errors mathematically”, explains Dr. Markus Wollgarten, head of the CoreLab for Correlative Spectroscopy and Microscopy at the HZB. It should be possible, for example, to display fine surface features of bacteria and viruses with extreme sharpness and to image new materials such as graphene with atomic-level precision without having to resort to expensive corrector optics.

In conventional microscopy, an electron beam or light beam (photons) is sent through the sample. A detector behind it measures the transmitted intensity to obtain an image of the sample. However, valuable information about sample-dependent phase change of the radiation is lost. Ptychography 4.0 will take this information into account mathematically and incorporate it in the analysis. Although this requires data rates in the gigabyte/second range, it allows the sample structure to be reconstructed mathematically with great accuracy. Therefore, many kinds of imaging errors caused by the microscope itself will become practically irrelevant.

The participating partners now want to further develop this approach and optimise the method for routine usage with different types of radiation, such as X-rays, electrons, and XUV light. In particular, image reconstruction is to be accelerated enough that real-time images become feasible.

“As a result of Ptychography 4.0, we will be able to avoid these limiting imaging errors, so that we can dispense with very cost-intensive physical corrector optics. Considerably more research institutes will be able to afford state-of-the-art high-resolution microscopy in the future”, emphasizes Wollgarten.

Participating Helmholtz Centres:
Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY)
Forschungszentrum Jülich (FZJ)
Helmholtz Institute Jena (GSI/HI-Jena)
Helmholtz Zentrum München (German Research Centre for Environmental Health/HMGU)
Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB)
Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR)
Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI)

Project Coordination:
Adj. Prof. Wolfgang zu Castell
Helmholtz Zentrum München (German Research Centre for Environmental Health/HMGU)
Prof. Christian Schroer
Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY)

Dr. Gerd Schneider (X-ray microscopy) as well as Ants Finke (IT Department) at HZB are also involved.


You might also be interested in

  • Scientists Develop New Technique to Image Fluctuations in Materials
    Science Highlight
    Scientists Develop New Technique to Image Fluctuations in Materials
    A team of scientists, led by researchers from the Max Born Institute in Berlin and Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin in Germany and from Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States has developed a revolutionary new method for capturing high-resolution images of fluctuations in materials at the nanoscale using powerful X-ray sources. The technique, which they call Coherent Correlation Imaging (CCI), allows for the creation of sharp, detailed movies without damaging the sample by excessive radiation. By using an algorithm to detect patterns in underexposed images, CCI opens paths to previously inaccessible information. The team demonstrated CCI on samples made of thin magnetic layers, and their results have been published in Nature.
  • Nanodiamonds can be activated as photocatalysts with sunlight
    Science Highlight
    Nanodiamonds can be activated as photocatalysts with sunlight
    Nanodiamond materials have potential as low-cost photocatalysts. But until now, such carbon nanoparticles required high-energy UV light to become active. The DIACAT consortium has therefore produced and analysed variations of nanodiamond materials. The work shows: If the surface of the nanoparticles is occupied by sufficient hydrogen atoms, even the weaker energy of blue sunlight is sufficient for excitation. Future photocatalysts based on nanodiamonds might be able to convert CO2 or N2 into hydrocarbons or ammonia with sunlight.
  • European pilot line for innovative photovoltaic technology based on tandem solar cells
    European pilot line for innovative photovoltaic technology based on tandem solar cells
    PEPPERONI, a four-year Research and Innovation project co-funded under Horizon Europe and jointly coordinated by Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin and Qcells, will support Europe in reaching its renewable energy target of climate neutrality by 2050. The project will help advance perovskite/silicon tandem photovoltaics (PV) technology’s journey towards market introduction and mass manufacturing.