Hokkaido University Research Profiles


High-resolution optical microscope: 1

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  • Molecular-level In-situ Optical Observation of Ice Crystal Surfaces

    Development of an optical microscope with atomic height resolution and in-situ observation of ice crystal surfaces

    In collaboration with Olympus Engineering Corporation, we have developed an optical microscope that has atomic resolution in the height direction. We are now studying mechanisms of the growth, sublimation, and melting of ice crystals at the molecular level.


    Crystals bounded by flat surfaces grow layer by layer, irrespective of materials. Therefore, to clarify the mechanisms and kinetics of crystal growth, we need to directly observe the behavior of growing ends of molecular layers (commonly called “elementary step”). However, atomic force microscopes and electron microscopes, both of which are generally used to observe solid surfaces at the molecular level, cannot be used to observe ice crystals. To overcome this difficulty, we have developed an optical microscope that can directly visualize elementary steps with the atomic/molecular height on a flat crystal surface in a non-contact, non-destructive manner. Using this microscope, we are now working on clarifying the growth mechanisms of ice crystals and the melting of ice crystal surfaces at sub-zero temperatures (called “surface melting”) at the molecular level. In addition to ice crystals, we are also conducting a wide range of research to investigate crystal surfaces at the atomic/molecular height levels.