multi-institutional team of researchers led by the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has devised an innovative imaging technique for capturing the 3D structures of nanocrystals, which find application in diverse fields like cancer treatment, pollution reduction, renewable energy collection and more.
The technique, called “3D Structure Identification of Nanoparticles by Graphene Liquid Cell EM (SINGLE)”, enables the analysis of the 3D structures of these particles for the first time. Metallic nanoparticles have dimensions in the nanometer range, which makes it impossible to visualize their structure. This limitation has prevented researchers from gaining insights into how they work.
This novel imaging method delivers a performance far superior than earlier techniques, due to the integration of three recently designed components. A graphene liquid cell is the first component, which is a one-molecule-thick bag capable of holding liquid within it during exposure to the ultra high vacuum of the electron microscope column. A direct electron detector is the second component, which has a much higher sensitivity than conventional camera film. It is capable of capturing movies of the nanoparticle when they spin around in solution. A 3D modeling approach called PRIME is the final component, and this can generate 3D computer models of individual nanoparticles using the movies captured.
The next step for SINGLE is to recover a full 3D atomic resolution density map of colloidal nanoparticles using a more advanced camera installed on TEAM I that can provide 400 frames-per-second and better image quality.