Electron microscope gives Penn State researchers powerful tool for discovery

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The cryo-electron microscope, or cryo-EM, is giving Penn State's life science and materials science researchers a powerful tool for discovering everything from new medical treatments to sustainable ways to produce and store energy, Neil Sharkey, vice president for research, told the University’s Board of Trustees Committee on Finance, Business and Capital Planning on Feb. 22.

The FEI Titan/Krios transmission electron microscope (TEM), which uses liquid nitrogen to operate at about -320 degrees Fahrenheit, is also helping to solidify the University's role as a leader in research, Sharkey added.

"As the physical and life sciences increasingly converge, we are proud to invest in a technology that will push our research to the next level," said Sharkey. "The new Krios TEM adds to our capabilities and opens up a whole new realm of investigational possibilities."

Sharkey said the technology fits Penn State's commitment to leverage interdisciplinary research to find solutions to real world problems, uncover new scientific discoveries and develop cutting-edge technologies.

"Penn State researchers take pride in our ability to form teams, collaborate across disciplines, and continually learn from each other," said Sharkey. "The Millennium Science Complex and its state-of-the-art instrumentation facilities are designed to support this dynamic kind of teamwork. We expect the new Krios TEM, which will find its home there, to only enhance this ongoing collaboration and teamwork."

The cryo-EM was custom designed for Penn State researchers. Typically, these microscopes are used by life scientists, but this device also includes spectroscopic technology, which also can help researchers understand the chemical composition of their materials.

For example, researchers using the cryo-EM could look at frozen samples and see structures at the atomic level. This method can produce 3-D images of biological molecules like DNA, proteins and viruses.

Biologists, materials scientists and other researchers around Penn State and from outside the University will be able to use this new addition to the other equipment currently available at Penn State.

The cryo-EM may lead to a range of practical advances, such as roll-up TV screens, energy-saving materials, vaccines, and treatments to defeat viruses.

To use the FEI Titan/Krios microscope visit https://www.huck.psu.edu/content/instrumentation-facilities/cryo-electron-microscopy.

Last Updated April 26, 2018