August 5, 2008 Carl Zeiss SMT impressed the Wall Street Journal (and us), last year with their award winning helium ion microscope, which provides significantly higher resolution images than competing electron microscopes. A year later, at the Microscopy and Microanalysis 2008 exhibition, the company have introduced a new and improved version: the ORION PLUS.

The principle of the ORION series is that by focusing helium ions into a beam, instead of electrons, the microscopes can offer higher focus with lower sample damage. The ORION PLUS offers several improvements over its predecessor. An improved tip geometry provides higher resolution by increasing the accelerating voltage of the helium ions; a “Clear View” sample cleaning system uses plasma cleaning, heating elements, and in-situ vapor cleaning to remove hydrocarbons from the sample; a “Signal Boost” feature increases electron collection at short working distances; and a “Quiet Mode Imaging” operating mode uses a cryomechanical pump instead of liquid nitrogen to cool the source, eliminating vibration and increasing brightness.

Dirk Stenkamp, a member of the Board of Carl Zeiss SMT, said “We are proud of the magnitude of improvement we have been able to achieve in only a year of development since the introduction of the first commercially practical Helium ion beam microscope. We will continue to push the envelope of advanced microscopy, delivering solutions that enable scientists to see and create at the nanometer scale.”