Microscopy

A microscope is an instrument used to see objects that are too small for the naked eye. The science of investigating small objects using such an instrument is called microscopy. Microscopic means invisible to the eye unless aided by a microscope.

There are many types of microscopes. The most common (and the first to be invented) is the optical microscope, which uses light to image the sample. Other major types of microscopes are the electron microscope (both the transmission electron microscope and the scanning electron microscope), the ultramicroscope, and the various types of scanning probe microscope.

  • A glimpse inside the atom: energy-filtered TEM at a subatomic level

    A glimpse inside the atom energy filtered TEM at a subatomic level | Atomic orbitals of carbon atoms in graphene Image: TU Wien

    Using electron microscopes, it is possible to image individual atoms. Scientists at TU Wien have calculated how it is possible to look even further inside the atom to image individual electron orbitals, using EFTEM (energy-filtered transmission electron microoscopy).

  • A signal boost for molecular microscopy

    A signal boost for molecular microscopy | Schematic illustration of the experiment. Graphic: MPQ, Laser Spectroscopy Division

    Cavity-enhanced Raman-scattering reveals information on structure and properties of carbon nanotubes. The inherently weak signals are amplified by using special micro cavities as resonator, giving a general boost to Raman spectroscopy as a whole.

  • Always on Beat: Ultrashort Flashes of Light Under Optical Control

    Light pulses can form pairs in ultra-short pulse lasers. The pulse intervals (red) can be precisely adjusted by making certain changes to pump beam (green). Image: UBT.

    Ultrashort laser pulses have enabled scientists and physicians to carry out high-precision material analyses and medical procedures. Physicists from the University of Bayreuth and the University of Göttingen have now discovered a new method for adjusting the extremely short time intervals between laser flashes with exceptional speed and precision. The intervals can be increased or decreased as needed, all at the push of a button. Potential applications range from laser spectroscopy to microscopy and materials processing. The researchers have now presented their latest findings in the journal Nature Photonics.

  • Brought to Light – Chromobodies Reveal Changes in Endogenous Protein Concentration in Living Cells

    Antigen-Mediated-ChromoBody-Stabilization (AMCBS). NMI

    Scientists at the Natural and Medical Sciences Institute (NMI) in Reutlingen and the Eberhard Karls University of Tuebingen have developed new molecular probes to monitor and quantify changes in the concentration of endogenous proteins by live-cell fluorescence microscopy. In a study now published in Molecular & Cellular Proteomics, Keller et al. describe how fluorescently labeled intrabodies (so-called chromobodies) are stabilized in the presence of their target proteins. Based on this newly uncovered property of chromobodies, the authors present a broadly applicable strategy to optimize chromobodies in order to visualize and measure changes of endogenous target proteins within living cells. 

  • Computers Made of Genetic Material? - ZDR researchers conduct electricity using DNA-based nanowires

    Scientists at Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf conducted electricity through DNA-based nanowires by placing gold-plated nanoparticles on them.

    Tinier than the AIDS virus – that is currently the circumference of the smallest transistors. The industry has shrunk the central elements of their computer chips to fourteen nanometers in the last sixty years. Conventional methods, however, are hitting physical boundaries. An alternative could be the self-organization of complex components from molecules and atoms. Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) and Paderborn University have now made an important advance: the physicists conducted a current through gold-plated nanowires, which independently assembled themselves from single DNA strands. Their results have been published in the scientific journal Langmuir.

  • Deep Learning predicts hematopoietic stem cell development

    What are they going to be? Hematopoietic stem cells under the microscope: New methods are helping the Helmholtz scientists to predict how they will develop. Source: Helmholtz Zentrum München

    Autonomous driving, automatic speech recognition, and the game Go: Deep Learning is generating more and more public awareness. Scientists at the Helmholtz Zentrum München and their partners at ETH Zurich and the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have now used it to determine the development of hematopoietic stem cells in advance. In ‘Nature Methods’ they describe how their software predicts the future cell type based on microscopy images.

  • EU funds research on biofuels and infectious diseases

    Salmolla. © Goethe University Frankfurt.

    FRANKFURT. Two ERC Advanced Investigator Grants of the European Research Council to the amount of € 2.5 million each are going to researchers at Goethe University Frankfurt. Biochemist and physician Professor Ivan Dikic and microbiologist Professor Volker Müller are very honoured that their pioneering research projects have been selected for this substantial financial support.

    Volker Müller is one of the leading microbiologists worldwide in the field of microbial metabolism of microbes that grow in the absence of oxygen. His project centres on the production of biofuels with the help of bacteria that can use carbon dioxide as feedstock.

  • Goettingen Researchers Combine Light and X-ray Microscopy for Comprehensive Insights

    STED image (left) and x-ray imaging (right) of the same cardiac tissue cell from a rat. University of Goettingen

    Researchers at the University of Goettingen have used a novel microscopy method. In doing so they were able to show both the illuminated and the "dark side" of the cell. The results of the study were published in the journal Nature Communications. (pug) The team led by Prof. Dr. Tim Salditt and Prof. Dr. Sarah Köster from the Institute of X-Ray Physics "attached" small fluorescent markers to the molecules of interest, for example proteins or DNA. The controlled switching of the fluorescent dye in the so-called STED (Stimulated Emission Depletion) microscope then enables highest resolution down to a few billionth of a meter.

  • Greifswalder Forscher dringen mit superauflösendem Mikroskop in zellulären Mikrokosmos ein

    Die Professoren Nicole und Karlhans Endlich am neuen Superresolution-Mikroskop. Foto: Kilian Dorner

    Das Institut für Anatomie und Zellbiologie weiht am Montag, 05.12.2016, mit einem wissenschaftlichen Symposium das erste Superresolution-Mikroskop in Greifswald ein. Das Forschungsmikroskop wurde von der Deutschen Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) und dem Land Mecklenburg-Vorpommern finanziert. Nun können die Greifswalder Wissenschaftler Strukturen bis zu einer Größe von einigen Millionstel Millimetern mittels Laserlicht sichtbar machen.

  • Grenzen der optischen Mikroskopie überwinden

    Darstellung von gestreutem Licht. Copyright: Benjamin Judkewitz, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin.

    ERC Starting Grant für interdisziplinäres Charité-Labor. Die Technik der optischen Mikroskopie hat wesentlich zur Begründung der Neurowissenschaften beigetragen. Aus der Forschung ist sie kaum wegzudenken. Allerdings: Bis heute bleibt die mikroskopische Bildgebung in lebenden Organismen auf Tiefen von weniger als einem Millimeter begrenzt. Der Grund dafür ist die Lichtstreuung. Diese Grenze aufzuheben und lebendes Gewebe in tieferen Schichten, beispielsweise in der Hirnrinde, sichtbar zu machen, das hat sich die Forschergruppe um Prof. Dr. Benjamin Judkewitz vorgenommen. In den kommenden fünf Jahren stehen dem Labor nun 1,49 Millionen Euro des Europäischen Forschungsrates (ERC) zur Verfügung.

  • Holographic analysis of Wi-Fi data generates 3D images of the vicinity

    A cross made of aluminum foil between the viewer and the WLAN-router can easily be reconstructed from the WLAN-hologram as can be seen in the inserted picture. Image: Friedemann Reinhard/Philipp Holl / TUM

    Scientists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have developed a holographic imaging process that depicts the radiation of a Wi-Fi transmitter to generate three-dimensional images of the surrounding environment. Industrial facility operators could use this to track objects as they move through the production hall. Just like peering through a window, holograms project a seemingly three-dimensional image. While optical holograms require elaborate laser technology, generating holograms with the microwave radiation of a Wi-Fi transmitter requires merely one fixed and one movable antenna, as Dr. Friedenmann Reinhard and Philipp Holl report in the current issue of the renowned scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

  • Hydrogen Bonds Directly Detected for the First Time

    A hydrogen bond forms between a propellane (lower molecule) and the carbon monoxide functionalized tip of an atomic force microscope. University of Basel, Department of Physics

    For the first time, scientists have succeeded in studying the strength of hydrogen bonds in a single molecule using an atomic force microscope. Researchers from the University of Basel’s Swiss Nanoscience Institute network have reported the results in the journal Science Advances. Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe and is an integral part of almost all organic compounds. Molecules and sections of macromolecules are connected to one another via hydrogen atoms, an interaction known as hydrogen bonding. These interactions play an important role in nature, because they are responsible for specific properties of proteins or nucleic acids and, for example, also ensure that water has a high boiling temperature.

  • Image correction software simplifies quantification of stem cells

    Mosaic image of a mouse brain slice improved by the software BaSiC. Image: Tingying Peng / TUM/HMGU

    Today, tracking the development of individual cells and spotting the associated factors under the microscope is nothing unusual. However, impairments like shadows or changes in the background complicate the interpretation of data. Now, researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the Helmholtz Zentrum München have developed a software that corrects images to make hitherto hidden development steps visible.

    When stem cells develop into specialized cells, this happens in multiple steps. But which regulatory proteins are active during the decisive branching on the development path? Using so-called time-lapse microscopy, researchers can observe individual cells at very high time resolutions and, using fluorescent labelling, they can recognize precisely which of these proteins appear when in the cell.

  • Measuring entropy on a single molecule

    Scanning Tunneling Microscope schematic

    A scanning-tunneling microscope (STM), used to study changes in the shape of a single molecule at the atomic scale, impacts the ability of that molecule to make these changes – the entropy of the molecule is changed and, in turn, can be measured. The study is published in Nature Communications. Chemical reactions, especially in biological systems, oftentimes involve macromolecules changing their shape – their “configuration” – for instance, by rotation or translational movements. To study what drives or impedes molecular mobility in more detail chemists and physicists turn to simplified model systems such as individual molecules adhering to a surface. These can then be investigated at temperatures just a few degrees above absolute zero (-273 degrees Celsius) using, for instance, a scanning tunneling microscope (STM), which can probe numerous physical properties of surfaces at the atomic level.

  • Meilenstein der Mikroskopie-Geschichte - SALVE-Projekt erfolgreich abgeschlossen

    Es ist über vier Meter hoch, tonnenschwer und seine Gerätschaften füllen einen ganzen Raum: Das bildfehlerkorrigierte Niederspannungs-Transmissionselektronenmikroskop bietet völlig neue Einblicke in die atomare Welt der Materie, und es ist das erste seiner Art. Mit dieser Neuentwicklung findet zugleich das siebenjährige SALVE-Projekt seinen erfolgreichen Abschluss. Das SALVE-Mikroskop erlaubt sogar Aufnahmen von elektronenstrahlempfindlichen Materialien und Biomolekülen.

  • Microscopy in the Body

    The endoscopy objective mounted on the coupling objective. (Image: FAU/Sebastian Schürmann)

    Biotechnologists, physicists, and medical researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have developed technology for microscopic imaging in living organisms. A miniaturised multi-photon microscope, which could be used in an endoscope in future, excites the body’s own molecules to illuminate and enables cells and tissue structures to be imaged without the use of synthetic contrast agents. The findings have now been published in the renowned journal ‘Advanced Science’.

  • Midwife and Signpost for Photons

    Sketch of an optimized optical antenna: A cavity is located inside; the electrical fields during operation are coded by the colour scale. Current patterns are represented by green arrows. Picture: Thorsten Feichtner

    Targeted creation and control of photons: This should succeed thanks to a new design for optical antennas developed by Würzburg scientists. Atoms and molecules can be made to emit light particles (photons). However, without external intervention this process is inefficient and undirected. If it was possible to influence the process of photon creation fundamentally in terms of efficiency and emission direction, new technical possibilities would be opened up such as tiny, multifunctional light pixels that could be used to build three-dimensional displays or reliable single-photon sources for quantum computers or optical microscopes to map individual molecules.

  • Molecule flash mob

    High PIP2 concentrations on the cell membrane (left) prohibit SERT oligomerisation or dissociation so the level of oligomerisation is fixed. The PIP2 concentration in the endoplasmic reticulum is very low (right). The SERT oligomerisation therefore strives for equilibrium. TU Wien

    Neurotransmitter transporters are some of the most popular transport proteins in research as they play a major role in the processing of signals in the brain. A joint study by TU Wien and the Medical University of Vienna has now successfully demonstrated for the first time the structural impact of membrane lipids on medically relevant serotonin transporters

  • Motion Pictures from Living Cells: Research Team from Jena and Bielefeld Improves Superresolution Microscopy

    Images of the new microscope: The computer screen and the microscope images (right) show a bone cancer cell with mitochondria (blue) and endoplasmic reticulum (pink). Bielefeld University/ W. Hübner

    In order to observe cells at work, researchers have to bypass a physical law. One of the fastest techniques to overcome the resolution limit of classical light microscopy is high-resolution structured illumination microscopy. It makes visible details that are about a hundred nanometres in size. However, translating the data back into images has taken a long time so far. A research team from the University of Bielefeld, the Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology and the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena has now developed a technique to observe processes in the cell. The results were published in "Nature Communications" on September 20, 2019.

  • Münster researchers make ongoing inflammation in the human brain visible

    Researchers at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence have visualized inflammation in the brain of mice (l.) and of MS patients (r.). To do so, they labelled specific enzymes (MMPs). Reprinted with permission from Gerwien and Hermann et al., Sci. Transl. Med. 8, 364ra152 (2016) 9 November 2016

    For the first time, Researchers at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence (CiM) at Münster University have been able to image ongoing inflammation in the brain of patients suffering from multiple sclerosis. The ultimate aim in biomedical research is the transfer of results from experiments carried out in animals to patients. Researchers at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence (CiM) at the University of Münster have succeeded in doing so. For the first time, they have been able to image ongoing inflammation in the brain of patients suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS). This involved specialists from different disciplines working together in a unique way over several years, combining immunology, neurology and imaging technologies ranging from microscopy to whole-body imaging.