(Daily file photo by Ben Pope)
A multidisciplinary team of researchers at Northwestern and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, have developed a new technique of electron microscopy that allows examination of nanoscale tubular materials while they form liquids.
The technique, known as variable temperature liquid-phase transmission electron microscopy (VT-LPTEM), is a first in the field of nanomaterial technology. It gives researchers the ability to examine nanomaterials while they are “alive,” as opposed to the static state they had to be examined in prior to the technology.
Chemistry and engineering Prof. Nathan Gianneschi co-led the study with David Jenkins, associate professor of chemistry at the University of Tennessee. Gianneschi is also the associate director of the International Institute for Nanotechnology.
The significance of LPTEM can be compared to the development of live-cell imaging in biology in the 20th century. Live-cell imaging gave scientists the ability to study cells as they developed and engaged in vital functions, whereas before the development, scientists could only study dead cells.
LPTEM can give researchers a similar ability to study nanomaterials while they actively develop and form liquids, rather than study fixed, static nanomaterials.
“We think LPTEM could do for nanoscience what live-cell light microscopy has done for biology,” Gianneschi said.
The research paper, “Elucidating the growth of metal-organic nanotubes combining isoreticular synthesis with liquid-cell transmission electron microscopy,” was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society this past week.
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