The scanning helium microscope (SHeM) is a novel form of microscopy that uses low energy (5-100 meV) neutral helium atoms (not ions!) to look at the surfaces of samples without causing any damage. Since helium is inert and neutral, and the beam energy is exceptionally low it is especially useful when studying delicate and insulating surfaces. Images are formed by rastering a sample underneath the atom beam and monitoring the flux of atoms that are scattered into a detector from each point.

The page is under development at the moment but will give some detail on the background to the technique – have a look at the Wikipedia page on the technique in the meantime.. what samples it might be applied to with some application notes, and papers and presentations by the core academic groups who have developed the technique.

Ionoptika Ltd. are working with academics at University of Cambridge and University of Newcastle NSW to develop the technology for a commercial product launching shortly.