Cryo-TEM Supermicroscope Installed at CBU

New Supermicroscope at Cape Breton University.

Excitement is buzzing at the Cape Breton University thanks to the installation of a new million-dollar microscope instrument. The transmission electron microscope (TEM) is one of only a few in Canada, the only one in Atlantic Canada, and serves many different researchers at CBU and the Verschuren Centre. Using a tiny electron beams the transmission electron can resolve microscopic structures down to the level of atoms. The ability to visualize samples at such a smaller level has the potential to unlock further knowledge for researchers in chemistry and biology.

Dr. Stephanie MacQuarrie, Associate Professor of Organic Chemistry; Dr. Matthias Bierenstiel, Associate Professor of Inorganic Chemistry; and Dr. Martin Mkandawire, Industrial Research Chair in Minewater Management, Verschuren Centre were awarded in 2016 a total of $1.1 million with contributions of $350,000 for the project from the Canada Foundation of Innovation (CFI) John R. Evans Leaders Fund, $350,000 by the Nova Scotia Research Innovation Trust (NSRIT), and in-kind contributions by the equipment manufacturer and CBU. The project required the installation of a small laboratory space to avoid dust and noise.

“With the installation of the Cryo-TEM at CBU the opportunities for collaborative research among our own researchers and others across the region will continue to grow,” says Dean of Research and Graduate Studies, Dr. Tanya Brann-Barrett, “We are excited by all the possibilities.”

What makes this instrument particularly unique is the special camera, a first of its kind in Canada installed in a transmission electron microscope in addition to the cryogenic ability. Traditional TEM analysis requires solid samples; however, when flash frozen to -196°C other objects such as cells and polymers can be analyzed. This ultracold freezing occurs with the cryo-attachment. Cryo-TEM is very high tech and allows for the viewing of samples that do not have to be stained or fixed in anyway; this opens even more potential for cross-disciplinary projects in chemistry, nanotechnology and biology. Two technicians are now preparing samples for capturing images. TEM will be used by science researchers at CBU and Verschuren Centre including postdoctoral researchers and undergraduate BSc students.

Dr. MacQuarrie says, “The Cryo-TEM is an incredible addition to our suite of instrumentation and analysis abilities at CBU and it’s installation has already generated interest from researchers across the Atlantic provinces to use the TEM for both academic and commercial research.”