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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Scanning Electron Microscopy

Mite SEM

The Hitachi 4700 Field Emission SEM scanning electron microscope includes a  cryo-stage that permits the imaging of flash frozen materials that allows an investigator to obtain images of the surface of biological and physical materials unaltered by preparative procedures. Critical point dried samples can also be observed.

Techniques developed for observing with low-temperature scanning electron microscopy are relatively easy to use and have been found to be successful in a wide range biological and samples composed primarily of water. Samples are place onto a copper metal sample plate (25 x 15 mm or 1 x 8/16 inch) and placed onto a brass bar in a bath of liquid nitrogen.  Within fractions of a second these plates are rapidly cooled to -196°C which attaches these samples to the plates. Due to the low surface tension of liquid nitrogen and the extreme hardness of materials cooled to these temperatures, very fragile samples can be observed. Sample can be stored at -196°C in storage dewars for an extended period of time. Selected samples are transferred to the preparation chamber of a Quorum PP2000 Cryotrans System for sputter coating with platinum. This renders them electrically conductive and they are placed on the precooled (-130°C) stage of a Hitachi S-4700 field emission SEM where they are imaged.  High resolution 26 Meg digital images are produced which can be converted to pdf or jpgs and e-mailed or provided to the scientist via thumb drive or DVD.

Contact:  301-504-6649
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Last Modified: 4/9/2015
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