Low-Temperature Scanning Electron Microscopy

  • Alan Beckett
  • Nick D. Read


Low-temperature scanning electron microscopy (LTSEM) involves three main operational phases:
  1. 1.

    The specimen is rapidly frozen (“quench-frozen”) after which it is maintained either under vacuum or in a dry, argon atmosphere at a temperature below — 130°C (143K). This is generally considered to be the point above which the recrystallization of pure water will occur (e. g., see Talmon, 1982a, and Read et al., 1983, and references therein). Quench-freezing rapidly transforms freezable cellular and extracellular water into its solid state (ice) and the specimen is considered to be fully frozen-hydrated (FFH).

  2. 2.

    The FFH specimen may be fractured, dissected, or retained intact and, if required, it may be heated (etched) and/or coated. If the sample is etched, variable amounts of water are removed by sublimation and the specimen may then be considered partially freeze-dried (PFD).

  3. 3.

    The sample is observed at low temperature [approx. -175°C (98K)] on a temperature-controlled stage in the scanning electron microscope.



Gate Valve Freeze Fracture Freeze Specimen Cold Stage Transfer Device 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alan Beckett
    • 1
  • Nick D. Read
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BotanyUniversity of BristolBristolEngland

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