The transmission electron microscope

The TEM is used to study the details of the internal structure of cells. Extremely thin samples of the specimen are needed. To make these the specimen is supported in a resin block to prevent in collapsing during cutting, and is sliced with a diamond or glass knife. The section is then impregnated with a heavy-metal stain, such as osmium tetroxide.

As the beam passes through the specimen, electrons are absorbed by heavily stained parts but pass readily through the lightly stained parts. Electromagnets bend the electron beam to focus an image onto a fluorescent screen or photographic film. Photograph taken through an electron microscope is called an electron micrograph.

The most modern TEMs distinguish objects as small as 0.2nm. This means that they can produce clear images magnified up to 250 000 times. The magnification is varied by changing the strength of the electromagnets.

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