Manufacturing Bits: Sept. 15

World’s largest camera; imaging inside cell membranes.


World’s largest camera
The Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has taken a step towards the development of the world’s largest digital camera.

Target for astronomy applications, SLAC has developed a large 3,200-megapixel sensor array and has taken its first photos with the system. The sensor array will be integrated into the world’s largest digital camera, which is being developed by SLAC.

Eventually, the large camera will be installed at Rubin Observatory in Chile, enabling panoramic images of the Southern sky.

The Rubin Observatory consists of a Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), camera and other components. The so-called Simonyi Survey Telescope is an 8.4-meter system based on a three-mirror design.

Slated for operation in 2022, the observatory will survey and image billions of objects in six colors in the sky. The survey will cover over half the sky. It will record the time evolution of objects in the sky.

The observatory is also designed to gain a better understanding in four areas: 1) dark matter and dark energy; 2) asteroids and remote solar systems; 3) the transient optical sky; and the formation the Milky Way.

Besides the telescope, the observatory will also consist of an LSST camera. Measuring 5.5 x 9.8 feet, the camera weighs almost 6,200 pounds. It is capable of viewing light from the near ultraviolet to near infrared (0.3-1μm) wavelengths.

The camera focal plane consists of 189 charge-coupled devices (CCDs). Each one has 16 megapixels for a total of 3.2 billion pixels. The pixels are also 10μm wide.

“The images are so large that it would take 378 4K ultra-high-definition TV screens to display one of them,” according to SLAC. And the camera can spot a golf ball from 15 miles away.

Over 10 years, the camera will collect images of about 20 billion galaxies. “These data will improve our knowledge of how galaxies have evolved over time and will let us test our models of dark matter and dark energy more deeply and precisely than ever,” said Steven Ritz, project scientist for the LSST Camera at the University of California at Santa Cruz. “The observatory will be a facility for a broad range of science – from detailed studies of our solar system to studies of faraway objects toward the edge of the visible universe.”

Imaging inside cell membranes
Washington University in St. Louis has developed a new microscopy technique that helps resolve the chemical compositions in cell membranes.

The technique, called single-molecule orientation localization microscopy (SMOLM), solves a major problem. It provides a way to see through a cell membrane, namely lipid membranes. Membranes are transparent and protective casings for cells.

“These are processes that are notoriously difficult to observe directly,” said Matthew Lew, assistant professor in the Preston M. Green Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis.

That’s where SMOLM fits in. SMOLM is a single‐molecule orientation localization microscopy technique. It allows researchers to distinguish collections of lipid molecules of the same phase. The collections are called nanodomains. SMOLM will also determine the chemical composition within those domains.

“As a new type of imaging spectroscopy, SMOLM exposes the organizational and functional dynamics of lipid‐lipid, lipid‐protein, and lipid‐dye interactions with single‐molecule, nanoscale resolution,” said Jin Lu, a postdoctoral researcher from Washington University in Angewandte Chemie, the journal of the German Chemical Society.

“This lipid, named sphingomyelin, is one of the critical components involved in nanodomain formation in cell membranes. An enzyme can convert a sphingomyelin molecule to ceramide,” Lu said. “We believe this conversion alters the way the probe molecule rotates in the membrane. Our imaging method can discriminate between the two, even if they stay in the same nanodomain.”

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