Inspired by Failure

Inspired by Failure

EMPAD by Kayla Nguyen

October 26, 2019

The guest on this episode of the Inspired by Failure podcast is Kayla Nguyen, EMPAD co-inventor.
EMPAD stands for Electron Microscope Pixel Array Detector, which is a highly efficient detector for the electron microscope. EMPAD benefits a large number of researchers across a wide range of scientific fields.
This hard-fought technology went through many stages of trials and failures, but finally resulted in success not only scientifically but also by earning a spot in The Guinness Book of World Records for the highest resolution microscope in the world
EMPAD started through a collaboration in 2006 with Professor Gruner, a well-known figure in the field on X-ray technology. He started building detectors for free electron lasers. As an experiment, this detector was put it into the electron microscope to see what would happen. It caught on fire. This project was shelved for almost a decade, until Kayla and other co-inventors stepped in to resurrect the research.
Through collaboration and tweaking, they were able to successfully complete the EMPAD in 2014.

Key Quotes:
“It wasn’t an epic failure; it was more like a marathon of failures.”
“It wasn’t resources, it was just working with a lot of people with a lot of expertise. It was definitely a group effort to get this detector to work, and to uncover new information, and new physics.”


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