Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory masthead A-Z Index Berkeley Lab masthead U.S. Department of Energy logo Phone Book Jobs Search
Tech Transfer
Licensing Interest Form Receive Customized Tech Alerts

Automated Electron Microscopy Film Scanner



  • Automatic loading and scanning of electron microscope film
  Inventor Robert Nordmeyer using the electron microscopy film scanner.


  • Eliminates the need for dedicated labor and delays associated with film scanning in electron microscopy
  • Can scan up to 750 images without reloading
  • Eliminates the need to convert to a digital camera with limited imaging capabilities
    • Photographic film collects more than 8 times as much data per micrograph as a digital camera at the same resolution
    • Photographic film meets high performance specifications at higher electron energies while digital cameras do not
  • Unique film-holder keeps all areas sharply in focus without risk of Newton's interference-fringes


Robert Nordmeyer, Robert Glaeser, and colleagues have invented a robot that automatically scans standard electron microscope film and stores the scanned data into a database. All the user has to do to is load up to 750 photographic films into the robot and start the process. Manual loading is currently the only available alternative for scanning film and requires the operator to load a new film approximately every ten minutes. The Berkeley Lab robot eliminates over 120 hours of manual operating time per 750 scans.

Because scanning photographic film is highly labor intensive, digital cameras using charge coupled device (CCD) technology are gaining appeal in electron microscopy labs. The Berkeley Lab robot automates the scanning process, eliminating the need to convert to digital imaging.

In addition, even the newest digital cameras are built with only 4,000 x 4,000 pixels. Due to poor scintillator performance for high-energy electrons, such cameras deliver significantly fewer pixels per image than are included in the CCD hardware itself. Photographic images, on the other hand, can be scanned at 10,000 X 13,000 pixels. Eight or more shots would have to be taken on a high-end CCD camera in order to cover the same area at the same resolution that is achieved in a single photographic image. Another disadvantage of digital cameras is that the electron beam illuminates and destroys a significantly larger area of the sample than is imaged. The necessity to take multiple shots of new areas with the CCD camera is not only time consuming but multiplies this effect.

The scanning robot consists of an "unscanned film” supply stack, a "scanned film" storage stack, a motorized stage for transporting the film from the supply stack to the scanner film cartridge and returning the film to the storage stack, and a custom-designed plate for holding the film in a flat plane without creating optical fringes. The robot is run by Berkeley Lab proprietary software that characterizes and corrects the linearity, MTF, geometric distortions and signal-to-noise ratio. The Berkeley Lab robot is designed to work with a Nikon Super Coolscan 8000 ED scanner.

STATUS: Available for licensing or collaborative research




Transmission Electron Microscope Phase-contrast Enhancement

See More Imaging Technologies