A Kirkland man who developed a groundbreaking approach to improving the resolution of electron microscopes will share in the 2020 Kavli Prize for Nanoscience.

Ondrej Krivanek, co-founder and co-owner of Nion in Kirkland, together with his colleague Niklas Dellby, solved what many had long considered an impossible problem, boosting the power and utility of electron microscopes and enabling them to peer into materials and see individual atoms.

Though less well known, the Kavli prizes — awarded by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters — are considered by many scientists as equivalent to the Nobel Prize. Each category carries a $1 million award.

Krivanek will share his with German scientists Harald Rose, Maximilian Hader and Knut Urban, who independently developed a different method to correct the aberrations that had long made electron microscope images fuzzy. Krivanek and colleagues were able for the first time to clearly distinguish small atoms bonded side by side in a film of boron nitride one atom thick. Each type of atom glowed with a different intensity.

“Their work is a beautiful example of scientific ingenuity, dedication and persistence,” Bodil Holst, chair of the Kavli Prize Committee in Nanoscience, said in a statement. “They have enabled humanity to see where we could not see before. Honoring these scientists and sharing with the world who they are and how they have transformed research, technology, industries and our lives is more important than ever.”