John Tolley, February 27, 2018

Sometimes hot research requires getting cold. Like, really cold. We?re talking -320° Fahrenheit.

Penn State?s newest piece of research hardware is very cool, literally. The FEI Titan/Krios transmission electron microscope (TEM) is a custom-built cryo-electron type microscope that uses liquid nitrogen to freeze and image materials down to the atomic level. What sets the TEM apart from other microscopes in its class is the addition of spectroscopic technology, allowing for chemical analysis of samples alongside traditional enhanced imaging.

The TEM is a boon to life scientists, said professor of biology Jim Marden, director of Penn State?s Huck Institute for Life Sciences, in a recent Penn State News article. With resolution nearing a single carbon atom, the microscope will allow researchers to peer into the very structures that give rise to life.

"Now we have a novel freezing technique, image sensor and algorithms that allow us to see these detailed structures and thus understand function," said Marden. "We are on the edge of revealing how life works and we know that this involves imaging — and being able to see detail."

One of the centerpieces of the Millennium Science Complex, a new facility housing the Huck Institute as well as the university?s Materials Research Institute, the TEM will also have tremendous utility for materials scientists, according to Marden. From nanoparticles used for drug delivery systems to soft materials, the unparalleled imaging capabilities will likely lead to research breakthroughs.

To learn more about the TEM and how the Millennium Science Complex is at the leading-edge of life and materials science collaboration, follow the links above.