Peripheral nerve of a rat

Did You Know…

…that a New Microscope Makes the Practically Invisible Visible?


For this purpose that ZEISS has developed a phase-contrast electron microscope. Back in 1934, Nobel Prize winner Frits Zernike revolutionized basic biomedical research with the invention of phase contrasting in light microscopy, which improved the method of examining nearly transparent cell structures. ZEISS built the first prototype of a phase-contrast microscope by 1936.

Phase contrasting is used to observe biological specimens with minimal contrast, such as cell membranes. The process uses special, transparent diaphragms in the ray path to cause a phase shift in the light. Developers at ZEISS have now found a way to make this phase-contrasting procedure available to electron microscopy for the first time. Because of its short-wave radiation, electron microscopy allows much greater detail to be portrayed. The greatest challenge was preventing the electron-optical phase-contrast plate, which guides the electron beam through a tiny hole, from becoming “clogged” by contaminants. This problem was eliminated through the use of electron-optical magnification.

The first commercial electron microscope with phase contrasting from ZEISS will primarily be used in biological and medical research. This microscope will enable scientists to observe and analyze the constituents of cells and their function in much greater detail than ever before. Thus, more than 75 years after Frits Zernike’s development, there are brand-new potential applications for phase contrasting.

10 August 2011

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