When we look at the world around us, we perceive it by visible light. This light is carrier by photons with a wave length of 400 to 700 nanometre, from blue to red. Using powerful lenses, we can investigate the small structures of materials, organisms and cells by light microscopes. Especially the development of fluorescence microscopy, that can image photons of specific wavelengths, has been a milestone in our understanding of small structures . However, structures smaller then a few 100 micrometer are difficult to study by light due to its wave proporties.
Electron microscopy uses electrons in stead of photons, which have a wave length that more than thousand times smaller. Imaging with these electrons allows us to see the world of beyond visible light, all the way to the size of atoms! This microscope allows us to see how small packages of neurotransmitter (circles in the lower picture by electron microscopy) are moved around in individual synapses (green dot in top picture by fluorescence microscopy) of nerve cells from our brain.
There are two types of electron microscopes: scanning electron microscopes and transmission electron microscopes. In our lab, we use transmission electron microscopes in which the electrons go through very thin samples to project an image. This results in very high resolution images of with a lot of small detail. Scanning electron microscopes on the other hand, collect the electrons that are scattered by samples that can also be big. This method gives detailed images of the sample surface. is performed by our collegues at EMCA at the the Amsterdam UMC location AMC in Amsterdam.
Are you wondering what your studies could look like beyond the scale seen by visible light?
Contact us to find our what electron microscopy can do for your research.