3D Mapping of Atoms

Changing the future of research

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) researchers have now been able to map out 2D material in 3D. They were able to map out atoms, and this could pave the way resources are created in the future. Technically atoms are not 2D, however, they are so flat that it can be very hard to get accurate mapping of the atoms that form materials.

3D laser scanning was used to capture precise details of the atom’s content. This technology allows the researcher to identify a single atom, in three dimensions without any other models, or damaging the atoms. Research like this has never been done before and is setting the way future researchers learn about atoms.

This technology has been adopted in various fields all over the world, shaping how we do research. It is continuously changing how we see the world and finding new resources to use that we previously did not have.

How they used 3D laser scanning

The UCLA researchers were able to use a 3D laser scanning device that captured atoms images from every angle, even being smooth and almost 2D. This technology is based on transmission electron microcopy, meaning that images were produced by measuring electrons that are scattered everywhere.

A massive challenge of using 3D laser scanning as the primary way to create 3D models from 2D like material is that 2D material can easily be damaged. How? By exposing the material with too many electrons. The team had to go sections at a time. Scanning the thin material, and after it was entirely scanned, only then were they able to complete one whole model.

“These atomic-scale experiments have given us a new lens into how 2D materials behave and how they should be treated in calculations, and they could be a game changer for new quantum technologies.” Says Professor Prineha Narang.

What is 3D scanning

This technology takes thousands of pictures per second, capturing every small and microscopic detail of an object or, in this case, an atom. It then stores the information in the cloud and can be saved for future reference. The team of researchers then printed out the 2D imaging in a 3D model to study.

The original way of taking measurements

Before 3D laser scanning came out, the only way researchers were able to tell the structure of an atom, the size, or any information was by using a theoretical model system. This system has been great, but leaves a lot of room for guesswork, and may not always be accurate.

This newer way of gathering information could allow engineers or other researchers to have access and discover new properties. 3D laser scanning would enable researchers to find new physical properties as well as chemical and electron properties of a material.


3D laser scanning is continuously being adopted all around the world and has changed the way we research things. It will continue to develop and be of use in our society. It is a booming industry, and 3D laser scanning will continue to grow in wealth because of its various uses.

Keep reading: more articles about 3D scanning

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