A new way of seeing - Associate Professor Laure Bourgeois
6 March 2017
As the manager of an advanced electron microscope, Associate Professor Laure Bourgeois gets to see all sorts of fascinating things.
“Our transmission electron microscope was recently used by my colleagues to view the microstructure of perovskite solar cells for the first time, which could lead to all kinds of breakthroughs in solar technology,” she said.
Associate Professor Bourgeois works at Monash University’s Centre for Electron Microscopy, where she has found a career that allows her to continue her research into materials science while satisfying her artistic impulses, exploring the intricate splendour of the natural world.
“Microscopy is very visual,” she said.
“Atoms are just round little things, but the way they’re arranged can be quite beautiful, and can also have very deep meaning. The visual side of things is very important to me, especially when you see something that’s new, something that no one’s seen before, something people might have thought was impossible,” she added.
On any given day, Associate Professor Bourgeois could be teaching students and fellow academics how to use the JEOL JEM-2100F microscope, or conducting research to unlock the secret properties of materials by peering into their atomic structures.
“In order to create materials that perform better and are more economical for everyday applications like aeroplanes, cars and mobile phones, we need to understand more about materials like alloys and ceramics,” she said.
“So I look at materials with these very powerful microscopes to see how the atoms are arranged and how that affects their properties,” she added.
Rapid advances in microscopy over the past decade have allowed researchers to make some significant leaps forward, driving exciting changes and innovation across diverse industries. The Monash Centre for Electron Microscopy is at the forefront of much of this research in Australia, housing some of the most advanced equipment in the world.
“Because we have new instruments now, we have new eyes, which are discovering lots of new things. Essentially, we’re able to understand materials in a completely new way. The microscopy field has been around since after the second world war, but in the last 15 years it has changed enormously .”