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The Transmission Electron Microscope

The transmission electron microscope (TEM) operates on the same basic principles as the light microscope but uses electrons instead of light. What you can see with a light microscope is limited by the wavelength of light. TEMs use electrons as "light source" and their much lower wavelength makes it possible to get a resolution a thousand times better than with a light microscope.

You can see objects to the order of a few angstrom (10-10 m). For example, you can study small details in the cell or different materials down to near atomic levels. The possibility for high magnifications has made the TEM a valuable tool in both medical, biological and materials research.

Magnetic Lenses Guide the Electrons
A "light source" at the top of the microscope emits the electrons that travel through vacuum in the column of the microscope. Instead of glass lenses focusing the light in the light microscope, the TEM uses electromagnetic lenses to focus the electrons into a very thin beam. The electron beam then travels through the specimen you want to study. Depending on the density of the material present, some of the electrons are scattered and disappear from the beam. At the bottom of the microscope the unscattered electrons hit a fluorescent screen, which gives rise to a "shadow image" of the specimen with its different parts displayed in varied darkness according to their density. The image can be studied directly by the operator or photographed with a camera.

 Related Laureate:
The Nobel Prize in
Physics, 1986
- Ernst Ruska »
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