Centres Científics i Tecnològics UB



New transmission and scanning electron microscope (STEM) with the ability to work in the liquid phase

The Scientific and Technological Centers of the University of Barcelona will soon install new state-of-the-art electron microscopy equipment valued at € 3.35 million, as part of the MERIT project (Electron Microscopy for Research, Innovation and Technology Transfer).

The new JEOL NeoARM microscope will be managed from our Applied Transmission Electron Microscopy laboratory and will be located in the facilities that the CCiTUB occupy within the Science Park of the University of Barcelona, also forming part of the set of unique infrastructures of the Barcelona node of the ICTS ELECMI.

With this specific microscope and sample holder, it will be possible to modify the temperature of the sample, apply an electrical polarization and work in a liquid medium, and therefore to see the structural or chemical changes that occur with nanometric or even atomic resolution in processes such as the degradation of electrochemical batteries or the synthesis of nanoparticles, among others. The possibility of working with high-sensitivity and ultra-fast direct detection cameras will open the door to 3D reconstruction of biomolecules and viruses, to the dynamic observation of the distribution of proteins, viruses or nanoparticles in cell membranes, and the analysis of protein interactions at the nanometer scale to understand the phenomena of aggregation and / or stabilization of substances of therapeutic interest.

With this investment, the UB complements the microscopy facilities of the CCiTUB, and is equipped with a unique first-class equipment, consolidating a leading position in the Catalan and state level, and becomes a strategic pole of reference for the development instrumental and methodological of these advanced microscopy tools applied to challenges at the frontier of knowledge. The instrumentation will become part of the CCiTUB benefits catalog, and will therefore be accessible to the entire scientific community, public research institutions and the business sector.

Features of the new equipment

The high-resolution spatial transmission and scanning electron microscope (STEM) will have features such as a spherical aberration corrector in the probe, will be equipped with detectors, state-of-the-art energy filter and direct electron detection camera, that will allow to work with flexibility in high and low voltage of operation and in liquid environment, mimicking the physiological and in-operando conditions in which certain biological, electrochemical and physical processes take place visualizing them of dynamic form. This new instrumentation will open lines of frontier research and technological innovation to answer transcendental questions that lie at the intersection between materials science and life science, and will therefore be configured to adapt to the conditions of spatial resolution, radiation dose and measurement time and rapid capture that imposes the same nature of the samples and the dynamic phenomena to be investigated.

These cutting-edge microscopy techniques are a transversal facilitating tool aligned with the research and innovation strategy for smart specialization in Catalonia (RIS3CAT) as the different modes of operation, the combination of spectroscopic signals and the application of external stimuli for the simulation of conditions in-operando, allow to access to the matter with the highest spatial resolution to obtain simultaneously vision, quantitative information and in dynamic mode to understand the phenomena of interaction to the nanoscale and contribute to the design of new materials, biomarkers, biosensors, and micro-nano devices for technological innovation at the service of society.

MERIT project

The MERIT project is one of the 7 cooperative projects of the Catalan knowledge system co-financed 50% through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Catalonia 2014-2020, according to Resolution EMC/337/2019 for cooperative projects of creation, construction, acquisition and improvement of shared scientific and technological equipment and platforms to improve scientific and technological excellence.

The project was presented by a consortium led by the UB, and co-participated by the Institute of Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC), The Bosch i Gimpera Foundation (UB), Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL), Agustí Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBAPS) and the Sant Joan de Déu Foundation (FHSD). The award of this co-financing, granted by the Secretariat of Universities and Research of the Department of Business and Knowledge of the Generalitat de Catalunya, was made public in November 2020.

Unique team for ICTS ELECMI

The UB's excellence in electron microscopy was recognized at the state level with the designation of the Laboratory of Electron Microscopy Applied to Materials of the Scientific and Technological Centers (CCiTUB) as the new node of the Singular Scientific and Technical Infrastructure distributed ICTS ELECMI (Electron Microscopy Applied to Materials) in November 2018.

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* Microscope and processing diagram images are property of JEOL.