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Atomic-Resolution Transmission Electron Microscope Cell for Use with Liquid Samples

2013-011

APPLICATIONS OF TECHNOLOGY:


Transmission Electron Microscopy for

ADVANTAGES:

ABSTRACT:

A Berkeley Lab research team including Paul Alivisatos and Alex Zettl has developed an Atomic-Resolution Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM) Cell for Use with Liquid Samples to observe chemical reactions, at any stage, of biological and nanomaterial samples in solution. To improve upon the limited resolution of commercially available TEM sample holders, the Berkeley Lab researchers integrated imaging windows or view ports made of atomically thin graphene along multiple sites of the reaction microchannels. When an electron beam passes through the graphene view port, an atom-resolution image of the liquid sample can be produced.

The researchers are the first to use a new fabrication technique to form graphene view ports on the substrate of the microchannels. Unlike conventional approaches, the new technique prevents leakages in the ultrahigh vacuum of a TEM, as the microfluidics can be sealed in the TEM cell without bonding two separate membranes.

The invention’s fabrication process can control the size of the microchannels formed. The graphene view ports can also be integrated with micro/nanofluidics to deliver several liquid samples at once to a TEM sample holder in an ultrahigh vacuum.

The Berkeley Lab TEM Cells’ versatility allows for the in situ analysis of nanomaterials or biological samples in liquid without using conventional cryo techniques. Micro/nano-electrodes can also be used to electrically stimulate the samples, and the temperature of the samples can be controlled in situ.

Although TEMs are important tools for the development of advanced materials and pharmaceuticals, some commercially available sample holders lack the high-resolution required to accurately image liquid nanomaterials, or the in situ reactions of biomolecules or nanoparticles with each other in solution, at the atomic level due to the thickness of the membrane walls that hold the liquid. In other words, the thickness of the microchannel walls that allow the fluid to flow in the TEM poses a limit to the imaging resolution of these devices. This new Berkeley Lab TEM technology overcomes these limitations.

DEVELOPMENT STAGE:  Proven principle

STATUS:  Patent pending.  Available for licensing or collaborative research.

SEE THESE OTHER BERKELEY LAB TECHNOLOGIES IN THIS FIELD:

Phase Plate for High Resolution and High Contrast TEM Images, JIB-2787

Graphene Membranes for Nanometer-scale Lithography and Single Atom Resolution TEM Imaging, IB-2501, 2502

REFERENCE NUMBER: 2013-011 / IB-3332

See More Imaging Technologies