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Imaging Suite

The Imaging Suite provides electron, visible light, and scanned probe services to all types of users from industry and academia.

Facilities

The Imaging Suite is part of the School of Science and Technology and located in the new £23 million Medical Technologies Innovation Facility (MTIF) research facility based at the Clifton Campus. The Imaging Suite supports the provision of electron, visible light, and scanned probe microscopy and associated spectroscopy services for internal and external customers for commercial, research and teaching.

The techniques and expertise provided by the Imaging Suite at NTU allows our academic and commercial clients to observe their specimens and materials in incredible detail. These observations allow our clients to gain novel insights into the mechanisms underlying their systems and processes, demonstrating results, enabling greater understanding and solving challenges. If you have a challenge you would like to explore using microscopy and related techniques please contact us.

Find out more about the state-of-the-art equipment available in our Imaging suite.

Transmission Electron Microscopy

The JEOL JEM-2100Plus operates as a conventional Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM) where an image is formed from the electron beam (80-200 kV, LaB6) scattering or being adsorbed as it passes through specimens a few tens of nanometres thick. Our microscope is configured with a high-resolution pole-piece offering a lattice image resolution of 0.14 nm and a point-to-point resolution of 0.23 nm. The microscope was equipped with the UK’s first Gatan Rio16 4k*4k CMOS camera.

The microscope can be operated as a Scanning Transmission Electron Microscope (STEM) when the illuminating electron beam is converged to a probe and electronically scanned across the sample. A range of detectors are available including brightfield (BF), annular darkfield (DF) and back-scattered electron (BEI) detectors. In STEM BF mode the edge-to-edge resolution is up to 1.0 nm.

An EDS detector (JEOL JED-SDD 30 mm2 window) is available for elemental analysis in conventional TEM and elemental mapping in STEM mode and a Be analytical double tilt holder is also available. Software (SerialEM) is available for tomography in addition to a high tilt holder.

Other modes may be available, please contact the Imaging Suite for more information.

Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM)

The JSM-7100F LV FEG-SEM uses a focused electron beam (0.2 – 30 kV accelerating voltage) to produce high-magnification and high-resolution images of the sample. Resolution far exceeds that of visible light microscopy owing to the shorter wavelength of the accelerated electrons. SEM can be used for a wide range of sample types from machine parts to biological tissues.

The system is equipped with 5 axis motorised specimen stage with sample access provided by a rapid pump airlock for quick sample exchange. The following operational modes are available:

  • Secondary Electron Imaging (SEI): Based on detection of inelastically scattered secondary electrons escaping the upper few nanometres of the sample, SEI is sensitive to surface topography which results in a 3D effect. This contrast mechanism offers the highest resolution imaging, which can achieve 1.2 nm (30 kV) to 3.0 nm (1 kV) depending on the sample and operating conditions.
  • Back-Scattered Electron Imaging (BEI): Detecting elastically scattered electrons of the incident beam, contrast is based on average atomic mass of the area the beam strikes, making this imaging mode sensitive to changes in sample composition. Resolution is slightly worse than can be achieved with SEI.
  • Low-Vacuum (LV): The instrument has a range of features to eliminate charge effects such as LV mode where the chamber pressure can be varied between 10-300 Pa to help dissipate charge. In addition to LV mode the sample and stage can be biased to minimise charge effects.
  • Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (EDS): An Oxford Instruments X-Maxn detector with 80 mm2 window permits elemental mapping in addition to line scans and spot analysis with the accompanying AZtec analysis software.
  • eBeam Lithography: Our FEG-SEM has been equipped with a Nanometer Pattern Generation System (JC Nabity Lithography Systems) and beam blanker (Deben UK) which allows the electron beam to be used to write nanoscale features to resists such as polymethyl methacrylate.

Other modes may be available, please contact the Imaging Suite for more information.

Scanning Probe Microscopy

Bruker Dimension Icon® Scanning Probe Microscope can produce surface height maps at sub 10 nm levels for lateral resolution and less than 1.0 nm vertical resolution through atomic force microscopy (AFM). This is achieved by scanning a probe (sharp to several nm) mounted on a cantilever across the surface of a sample and using a laser to track cantilever deflection as it interacts with topographical features. In addition, maps based on mechanical property contrast can be measured through force spectroscopy. Due to there being no special environmental requirements it is also possible to image samples immersed in liquid. The following operation modes are available:

  • Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM): produces height contrast maps by various mechanisms, including ScanAsyst, contact and tapping modes.
  • Force Spectroscopy: Simultaneously measure height contrast maps with nanomechanical property contrast mapping (e.g., adhesion and modulus).
  • Scanning Tunnelling Microscopy (STM): STM exploits the change in tunnelling current which occurs when an electrically conductive probe moves near a surface to produce a height map.
  • Scanning Kelvin Probe Microscopy (SKPM): Generates maps where contrast is based on the electrical potential of a surface.

Other modes may be available, please contact the Imaging Suite for more information.

Laser Scanning Confocal Microscope 

The SP5 uses confocal point scanning to perform high resolution optical sectioning of fluorescent samples. Scan dimensions include x, y, z, t (time) and λ (wavelength) while a motorised stage permits tile scans and mark and find experiments. The resonant scanner has a maximum line frequency of 8 kHz to capture high speed events such as calcium signalling.

A wide range of dyes can be supported with 8 laser lines from UV to far-red (405, 458, 476, 488, 496, 514, 594 and 633 nm). Detection is by a continuously adjustable spectrometer across 400-800 nm (1 nm step) with 6 detectors (2 hybrid (HyD) and 3 photomultipliers (PMT). Excitation-emission light separation is achieved by an Acoustic Optical Beam Splitter (AOBS) allowing the system to optimised for most dye combinations. In addition, detection of transmitted light is possible for a contextual brightfield or differential interference contrast channel.

A live cell imaging capability includes a chamber to maintain temperature and supply premixed gasses, as is appropriate for many mammalian tissue culture systems. Conventional tissue culture incubators are located with the microscope to facilitate experiments.

Software modules are available for colocalization, Förster Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) and Fluorescence Recovery After Photobleaching (FRAP) experiments. Experiments on the SP5 are also supported by the Huygens deconvolution package from SVI and the Imaris image analysis software.

Other modes may be available, please contact the Imaging Suite for more information.

Widefield Microscopy

A wide range of upright and inverted microscopes are available for fluorescence, brightfield, darkfield, phase, polarisation, and interference contrast techniques. These microscopes are equipped with upright and inverted micrscopes. For live cell imaging enviromental chambers such as heated or culture chambers are also available.

Related techniques such as dispersive Raman microscopy (Thermo DXR), laser capture microdissection (Zeiss PALM), incubator microscopes (Incucyte) are also available.

Other modes may be available, please contact the Imaging Suite for more information.

Sample preparation facilities

Sample preparation facilities include laboratory space for mounting, embedding, sectioning, polishing and staining specimens prior to analysis (please enquire for specific techniques). Facilities include microtomes, an ultramicrotome and stereo microscopes.

For electron microscopy a Quorum Q150R ES is available for sputter coating (Pt, Au), carbon thread evaporation and glow discharge.

Facility hire

imaging facilities hire

The Imaging Suite is completely integrated into the full range of analytical, experimental, and technical services offered by the School of Science and Technology’s commercial arm Scientific Services to Industry (SS2i).

A wide range of additional services can be accessed through SS2i, these can be accessed in a wide range of formats from analysis priced per sample or hour, trained instrument access or customised packages offering a range of support to meet your project needs.

To access the Imaging Suite please call  us +44(0) 115 848 6374 or email

Image gallery

  • Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy
    Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy
    Elemental map of a semiconductor device produced by energy dispersive spectroscopy. In addition to a composite map overlaying the secondary electron image the individual maps of aluminium, silicon, oxygen and phosphorous are shown. Reconstructed spectra for two positions on the sample hghlights the localisation of the aluminium microtrack structure.
  • Backscatter Electron Imaging
    Backscatter Electron Imaging
    Multilayered screen printed wearable sensor on fabric consisting of dielectric layers and silver plates.
  • Thunder 1
    Thunder 1
    Cresyl violet stain of a mouse brain 48 h following transient middle cerebral artery occlusion model of stroke showing the areas of brain infarct across the different regions of the brain. Slide image captured as a tile scan using a Leica Thunder Live Cell microscope. Sample preparation by Satinderdeep Kaur, PhD student in NTU's Biosciences Department.
  • Thunder 2
    Thunder 2
    Cresyl violet stained brain sections 48 h showing areas of brain infarct across the different regions. Slide image captured as a tile scan using a Leica Thunder Live Cell microscope. Sample preparation by Satinderdeep Kaur, PhD student in NTU's Biosciences Department.
  • BF Artery
    BF Artery
    Brightfield micrograph showing the histology of a stained section of renal artery from a pig (Sus domesticus).
  • Steel polished
    Steel polished
    10 um x 10 um AFM micrograph taken using tapping mode of a scratch on a piece of carbon steel polished to 1 um. The scratch is approximately 60 nm deep.
  • AFM
    AFM
    Laser patterned surface of silica film on top of a silicon substrate.
  • AI polished
    AI polished

Medical Technologies Innovation Facility (MTIF)

More information on the comprehensive range of services provided by MTIF including tissue culture and ISO class 6 clean room spaces can be found on the MTIF website.