First color images produced by electron microscope

By Angelica Coleman

Staff Writer

It is easy to understand why color images are more ideal than gray scale images. However, in the world of microscopy, producing color images is often a complicated task.

color-microscopy

Source: Adams et al./Cell Chemical Biology 2016

Electron microscopy is a high-powered method used to observe atomically thin materials and cells. The microscope produces high quality grayscale images by firing electrons at the sample and reading the results in the form of an image. The latest advancement is put forth in the Nov. 3 issue of Cell Chemical Biology. Researchers have developed a technique for producing images that distinguish different molecules with colors.

Previously, scientists have 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 still adding the color distinction.

The technique is achieved by layering three lanthanide earth metals over cells on a slide. Each metal ion reacts differently with the electrons, and each ion is associated with a target molecule. The distinct wave types representing the interactions between ions and electrons are matched up with colors. Thus, different molecules have distinct colors in the final image scan. It took 15 years for researchers to achieve this advancement, according to Science Magazine.

The researchers are hopeful that they can add more colors to the spectrum in the coming years, further enhancing the clarity of images produced. This new technique will be useful for researchers who utilize electron microscopy in their work, because it will enhance their ability to understand what is occurring on the molecular level.

“Electron microscopy (EM) remains the primary method for imaging cellular and tissue ultrastructure,” [Cell Chemical Biology]. Because electron microscopy is applied to many fields of study, this advancement should have a large impact on research methods over time.

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