First color images produced under an electron microscope – The Simmons Voice

By Angelica Coleman


It’s easy to see why color images are more ideal than grayscale images. However, in the world of microscopy, producing color images is often a complicated task.

Source: Adams et al./Cell Chemical Biology 2016

Electron microscopy is a high-power method used to observe atomically thin materials and cells. The microscope produces high-quality grayscale images by sending electrons to the sample and reading the results as an image. The latest breakthrough is featured in the November 3 issue of Cell Chemical Biology. Researchers have developed a technique to produce images that distinguish different molecules with colors.

Previously, scientists overlaid electron microscope images with images from a light microscope to differentiate colors between molecules, according to Science News. However, this new technique preserves the quality of an electron microscope image while adding color distinction.

The technique is performed by superimposing three lanthanide earth metals on cells on a slide. Each metal ion reacts differently with electrons, and each ion is associated with a target molecule. The distinct wave types representing the interactions between ions and electrons are associated with colors. Thus, different molecules have distinct colors in the final image analysis. It took researchers 15 years to make this breakthrough, according to Science Magazine.

The researchers hope to be able to add more colors to the spectrum in the years to come, further improving the clarity of the images produced. This new technique will be useful to researchers who use electron microscopy in their work, as it will improve their ability to understand what is happening at the molecular level.

“Electron microscopy (EM) remains the main method of imaging cell and tissue ultrastructure”, [Cell Chemical Biology]. Since electron microscopy is applied to many fields of study, this advancement is expected to have a significant impact on research methods over time.

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