Today it is impossible to pick up a newspaper or financial magazine and not come across an article describing some part of the global financial credit crisis. Banks are in turmoil; first time buyers are finding it almost impossible to get on to the housing ladder and banks do not even trust their own credit-worthiness when they lend between themselves, let alone the general public.

Why does it have to be so difficult to predict and manage the age old tradition of the financial markets?

Faced with such conflict the scientist reverts to the plethora of tools and techniques carefully crafted and developed; fine tuned to suit a particular need, that will delve deeper and beam light on the problem in hand.

Scientists focus on the microscopic to gain a better understanding of the macroscopic. This is the fundamental learning block, and tool which we rely on time and time again, and for good reason. This special issue of Materials Today shares with you some of the fascinating discoveries and techniques in world of microscopy today.

Optical microscopy and fluorescence microscopy must be one of the most well known and powerful techniques currently on the market, Johan Hofkins, et al. present new findings that challenge our current perception of the technique.

We then scratch the surface of the fascinating world of nanotechnology. Chang Liu presents a paper reviewing the power and versatility of the scanning probe instrument family, including some of the surface characterization tools that measure surface force interactions.

David Smith from Arizona State University then takes us even deeper in to the characterization of nanostructures and further enhances our understanding of atomic scale phenomena.

The dynamic capabilities of scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) and atomic force microscopy (AFM) are described by Georg Schitter at Delft University, where he and his team show atom and molecule diffusion processes, real time film growth and chemical or catalytic reactions using video rate STM and AFM.

In the final review paper Eric Stach looks at some of the recent developments in electron microscopy and technology is slowly expanding the boundaries and improving resolutions from the nanometer to Angstrom.

These are certainly fascinating times in which we live; future breakthroughs in instrumentation and improvements in resolution and versatility are only set to improve, giving us yet deeper insights in to the wonderful world of materials

Read full text on ScienceDirect

DOI: 10.1016/S1369-7021(09)70001-X