EMSL hosts a variety of sophisticated microscopy instruments, including electron microscopes, optical microscopes, scanning probe microscopes, and computer-controlled microscopes for automated particle analysis. These tools are used to image a range of sample types with nanoscale—and even atomic—resolution with applications to surface, environmental, biogeochemical, atmospheric, and biological science. Each state-of-the-art instrument and customized capability is equipped with features for specific applications.
- Nanoscale imaging – Many tools offer nanoscale and sub-nanoscale resolution for a wide variety of sample types, allowing users to study nanoscale chemical processes, such as interfacial electron transfer, organic thin film devices, and cell membrane proteins.
- Atomic-level imaging – EMSL users can obtain topographical information on a variety of materials, imaging down to individual atoms on a surface. This technique has been applied to nanostructures; geological samples; and biological samples, such as protein and biomolecule structures on a surface.
- In situ imaging – A transmission electron microscope (TEM) with controlled sample environment and a number of TEM holders and stages enables imaging of dynamic processes in real time under environmentally relevant conditions and has applications in catalysis, energy materials, and material transformations.
- Tomography – An electron microscope equipped for tomography allows users to obtain image series for three-dimensional reconstruction. Complete with cryostage, this capability is primarily devoted to biological samples for morphological and immunocytochemistry studies and supports imaging of samples such as soft materials and polymers.
- Particle Analysis – A scanning electron microscope (SEM) equipped with hardware and software for computer-controlled SEM/energy dispersive X-ray (EDX) analysis allows users to obtain detailed knowledge about the particle-type composition of non-volatile samples of atmospheric particles. Environmental scanning electron microscopy allows users to study hydration properties of environmental particles.
- Sample preservation – Techniques are available in environmental mode, which does not require extensive preparation procedures that can introduce imaging artifacts. Live-cell and in situ imaging in liquids can be achieved with high resolution.
- Dynamic processes in real time – Tools are available to study femtosecond dynamical processes with unprecedented spatial resolution; complex reaction dynamics, such as enzymatic reactions, protein-protein interactions, and interfacial electron transfer processes; protein-protein interactions, such as those involving cell signaling; and molecular interactions that can be quantified at the level of a single molecule.
- NMR imaging – A 500-MHz nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) imaging spectrometer can be used alone and integrated with confocal fluorescence microscopy. Methods include mapping of biological systems with spectroscopy and diffusion.
- Complementary information – Many EMSL microscopes offer complementary probes to study different facets of samples simultaneously, such as automated two- and three-dimensional electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) and electron energy loss spectroscopy (EELS) analysis capabilities.
For a full listing, refer to the "Capabilities" table that links to detailed information about each of EMSL's microscopy instruments. Brief details about the primary microscopy tools available to EMSL users include:
- Electron microscopes with tomography, cryo, scanning, in situ, and high-resolution (sub-nanometer) capabilities. Different microscopes are dedicated to samples types, such as biological or atmospheric particles.
- Helium ion microscopy to obtain high-resolution, surface-sensitive imaging of conducting, non-conducting, and biological materials
- Nano-secondary ion mass spectrometry (NanoSIMS) for nanoscale isotopic imaging of samples with high sensitivity
- NMR microscopy (10–40 µm) to study the anatomy, metabolism, and transport processes of live-cell cultures, biofilms, and tissue samples
- Dual Raman confocal microscope for radiological samples
- Optical microscopes to study reaction dynamics
- Single-molecule fluorescence tools to study molecular interactions in real time
- Spectroscopy tools with visible and near-, mid-, and far-infrared capabilities
- Atomic force microscopy capabilities to study nanoscale chemical processes
- Scanning probe microscopes to obtain high-resolution topographical information for a variety of sample types.
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