Microscopy is an essential technology in many industries, from the manufacturing industry to the field of medicine. It has not only improved the quality of products and services but it has also saved many lives. In recent years, this technology has seen a number of advancements, including the development of automated microscopy guided by high-quality linear stages. In this article, we will discuss some more of these groundbreaking new techniques and how they work.
Mapping Living Cells
Microscopes have been crucial to helping medical professionals identify abnormalities in living cells. Unfortunately, there are certain symptoms that cannot be detected by sight alone. Recently, scientists from the University of Stanford have come up with a technique that will allow them to measure the mechanical properties of living cells. The technique is known as atomic force microscopy (or AFM for short). It uses a probe to tap on the surface of a cell, causing its surface to vibrate. By analyzing the patterns of these vibrations, scientists can determine more mechanical information about the cell’s structure.
Writing with Metallic “Ink”
As devices continue to shrink in size, it becomes increasingly difficult to manipulate materials at such a small scale. Fortunately, the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory developed a new technique wherein scientists can write tiny patterns using metallic “ink.” By utilizing scanning transmission electron microscopes (otherwise known as STEM), scientists can deposit small amounts of metal onto silicon microchips. The process involves weaving an electron beam through a cell that’s filled with liquid containing palladium chloride.
The resulting patterns are so small that they’re around the size of an atom or a molecule. This technique ensures that the metals are deposited without compromising their purity, providing manufacturers an opportunity to create devices with more precision than ever before.
In order to examine tiny cells up close, microscopes manipulate light so as to make these small structures look larger than they really are. While light microscopes are still far more effective than simply relying on the naked eye, they do have their limits. Because of the wavelength of traditional light, most microscopes can only distinguish objects that are at least 200 nanometers apart. Unfortunately, certain specimens (such as synapses) fall under this limit, meaning they cannot be properly examined.
To overcome this obstacle, scientists have come up with a way to literally make a specimen physically bigger without using any invasive processes. This technique, called expansion microscopy, involves infusing the specimen with a chemical called acrylate, which is more commonly used in diapers for absorbing fluids. This allows the brain-acrylate matrix to swell up to four times its original size without affecting the relative position of each protein. Thus, scientists can get a much clearer view of objects that are otherwise too small to analyze with traditional microscopy techniques.
Indeed, we have come a long way compared to when the first microscope was invented several centuries ago. Only time can tell what new cutting-edge techniques will be created in the years to come.