Low energy loss electron microscopy of chromophores
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A novel prism-mirror-prism imaging electron spectrometer with 1 eV energy resolution for a transmission electron microscope permits imaging with spectral energies corresponding to light-optical colour absorptions. The instrument selects the molecular orbital excitations of natural chromophores or of specific dyes normally used in biological light microscopy for delineation and chemical identification, but images them with electron microscopic detail. Heavy atom contrast agents customarily used in electron microscopy are not required. The first results exploit the intrinsic red colour of hematin molecules to demonstrate the potential of the technique and address its spatial resolution. Glycosaminoglycans in cartilage stained with Alcian blue are selectively depicted in situ by means of the electron-induced molecular absorption of this chromophore. Thus, with the use of specific colours the direct or indirect analysis of local chemistry by electron microscopy is possible, and can be carried out with a depiction of spatial detail as small as 16 A, or at least 100-fold finer than observed by light microscopy.
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