Microfluidic system for transmission electron microscopy

Ring, Elisabeth A., and Niels de Jonge, 2010


We present a microfluidic system that maintains liquid flow in a specimen chamber for scanning transmission electron microscope (STEM) imaging. The specimen chamber consists of two ultrathin silicon nitride windows supported by silicon microchips. They are placed in a specimen holder that seals the sample from the vacuum in the electron microscope and incorporates tubing to and from the sample connected to a syringe pump outside the microscope. Using results obtained from fluorescence microscopy of microspheres flowing through the system, an equation to characterize the liquid flow through the system was calibrated. Gold nanoparticles of diameters of 30 and 100 nm moving in liquid were imaged with a 200 kV STEM. It was concluded that despite strong influences from Brownian motion, and sensitivity to small changes in the depth of the bypass channel, the electron microscopy flow data matched the calculated flow speed within an order of magnitude. The system allows for rapid (within a minute) liquid exchange, which can potentially be used, for example, to investigate the response of specimens, e.g., eukaryotic or bacterial cells, to certain stimuli.

Impact Statement

Investigation of in the liquid flow parameters through a liquid chamber formed using Poseidon E-chips.. The flow was investigated optically using quantum dots with wide-field fluorescence microscopy and gold nanoparticles were utilized for in-situ liquid TEM measurements.
Keywords: Nanoparticles; Flow Rates; Dynamics