The creation of electron microscopy in the 30-ies of the last century has given an incredible impetus to the development of the whole science. However, even modern electron microscopes is not always possible to achieve the desired results. But the new development of scientists from Cornell University can make a real revolution: a new kind of electron microscope allows us to see the atoms in living cells without damaging them.
According to the editors of the journal Nature, a new approach to electron microscopy not only allows you to see individual atoms, but also to learn about some of their properties. The technology that underlies the work, called EMPAD (Electron Microscope Pixel Array Detector). It allows you to consider the individual atoms in motion. Using this technology and combining it with an electron microscope, scientists were able to capture the plot 0,039 nanometers is smaller than the size of atoms, which usually is 0.1-0.2 nm. At the request of one of the authors, Cornell Professor Sol Gruner,
“In fact, it is the smallest range in the world. The resolution of the microscope was so good even at low capacities, which the team was able to detect the absence of one atom of sulphur in the layers of molybdenum disulfide. The molecular defect! This is amazing!”
Next EMPAD was installed on various electron microscopes on campus of Cornell University. Established instruments were used in different capacities. The resulting microscopes with EMPAD detect not only the direction but also the rate of incoming electrons, which allows to obtain extremely high resolution.
“The analogy that I like to explain the technology – a machine that rides on you at night. You are looking at the approaching light, but can’t see the license plate between the headlights without being blinded”.
Scientists believe that EMPAD can be used not only on laboratory specimens but also on living cells, because the required energy is lower than in standard electron microscopy. It is possible to observe various properties and processes at the molecular level in real time.