Electron Microscopy

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Electron Microscopy

Electron Microscopes were developed due to the limitations of Light Microscopes which are limited by the physics of light to  a resolution of about 0.2 micrometers. In the early 1930’s this theoretical limit had been reached and there was a scientific desire to see the fine details of the interior structures of organic cells (nucleus, mitochondria…etc.). This required 10,000x plus magnification which was just not possible using Light Microscopes.


The Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM) was the first type of Electron Microscope to be developed and is patterned exactly on the Light Transmission Microscope except that a focused beam of electrons is used instead of light to “see through” the specimen. It was developed by Max Knoll and Ernst Ruska in Germany in 1931.


The first Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) debuted in 1942 with the first commercial instruments around 1965. Its late development was due to the electronics involved in “scanning” the beam of electrons across the sample.


Since then, electron microscopy plays a key role in many fields of life sciences, materials sciences and physics.


The interdisciplinary center for electron microscopy (CIME) at EPFL is a research and service center for electron microscopy.