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EM & LM Sample Preparation

EM Sample Preparation

The University Imaging Centers offer a range of sample preparation protocols for electron and light microscopy. We are set up for chemical processing (conventional, low-temperature, and microwave-assisted) of primarily biological materials, along with preparation of some physical materials.  For SEM, samples can be dried, mounted and sputter coated prior to observation.  Specimens for LM and TEM are embedded in resin and may be sectioned and stained. Serial block-face SEM processing can be done at the UIC, with data collection performed at the Mayo Clinic.

Training by UIC staff is available for the sample preparation equipment listed here, as well as for our electron and light microscopes.

Cressington 108 Auto Sputter Coater

Sputter Coater

Location: 35 Snyder Hall

The Cressington 108 Auto Sputter Coater deposits a thin layer of metal (60% gold / 40% palladium) on mounted samples for improved signal in the SEM.  The coater is equipped with a rotating-tilting stage for better sample coverage, and a thickness detector for controlled metal deposition.

Denton DV-502 Vacuum Evaporator


Location: 35 Snyder Hall

The Denton Vacuum Evaporator is used in many different specimen preparation methods — mostly employed in electron imaging. Thicker coatings of metal (such as gold, platinum:palladium, or gold:palladium) can be applied to specimens of nearly any shape.

Leica CM1800 Cryostat


Location: 37A Snyder Hall

Leica CM1800 Cryostat utilizes up-to-date microprocessor technology ensuring easy operation. All functions are protected against dirt and humidity by a plastic foil. It features an easily readable display including an automatic display of errors and a motorized coarse feed which enables rapid trimming and sectioning.

Leica Tissue Processor


Location: 35 Snyder Hall

Tissues can be processed into a variety of resins for subsequent electron and light microscopy analysis. The pre-heat system allows the correct reagent temperature to be maintained throughout processing. Small vials are available for EM processing and larger for LM which can also be used for high throughput sample processing runs where over 150 EM samples can be processed in one run.

Leica Ultracut UCT Ultramicrotome


Location: 37D Snyder Hall

The ultramicrotome is an instrument commonly used to prepare TEM samples. It uses either a glass or diamond knife to cut ultra thin sections of specimens embedded in epoxy. The sections are approximately 60 to 100 nanometers in thickness and 0.5 to 3 mm in width and can be stained and mounted onto TEM grids for viewing. The ultramicrotome is also used to create mirror-smooth surfaces on samples mounted in epoxy, the applications for which include secondary imaging on the SEM and nanoindentation. Preparation on smooth samples for surface analysis need not always be of samples that are embedded, as sometimes bulk will work.

PELCO easiSlicer Vibratome


Location: 1-250C CCRB

The PELCO vibratome provides exceptional stability and perfect control of section thickness down to 40 microns, with minimal z-axis vibration.

learn more about the pelco easislicer vibratome

  • Precision design for accurate, high quality sections with minimal z-axis vibration
  • Novel bath design utilizes unique easy-locking base making it simple to clean
  • Anodized specimen tray magnetically locks onto bath
  • Optional magnetic base for tissue mounts available
  • Cuts sections to 40 microns
  • LED lights indicate active vibratory status and cutting window boundaries
  • Standard removable blade holder securely holds Feather® blades at a 15º 
    preset angle; other optional angles available
Maximum Specimen Size
40 x 40mm (1.58" x 1.58")
Maximum Specimen Height
15mm (0.6")
Specimen Bath
Spring-loaded; polypropylene
Specimen Tray
Rectangular with magnet release.
Blade Type
Feather® blades recommended
Blade Angle
15° standard; 18°, 21° available
Sectioning Window
10 - 40mm (0.4" - 1.58")
Specimen Height Adjustment (Z-Axis)
15mm (0.59") total travel in 1μm increments; tactile click stops at 5μm
Cutting Arm Speed (Y-Axis)
Forward: 0 - 2.0mm/sec (0 - 0.08"/sec)

Reverse: 5mm/sec (0.2"/sec) 

Travel: 40mm (1.58”) total
Vibratory Amplitude (X-Axis)
0 - 1.00mm (0.04") total; continuously adjustable
Cutting Arm Frequency
50Hz ±5 factory set
2X magnifier
LED illumination; LOW/OFF/HIGH
535 x 300 x 290mm (21.1" x 11.8" x 11.4")
16.8 kg (37lbs)
Utility Requirements
100 - 240V; 50/60 Hz; 345VA

Tousimis Autosamdri-814 Critical Point Dryer


Location: 35 Snyder Hall

The Tousimis AUTOSAMDRI-814 critical point dryer dehydrates samples prior to examination under the SEM.  It uses liquid carbon dioxide at a specific temperature and pressure to significantly reduce drying artifacts due to liquid surface tension.  The 815 has a 1.25”-diam, 1.25” depth chamber with an optional chamber extender. Multiple specimen holder sizes are available.

Pelco BioWave Pro Processor


Location: 1-220 CCRB

Sample preparation methodology for light and electron microscopy for live and fixed cell and tissue imaging. 

  • Variable power
  • ColdSpot with temperature controlled chiller
  • Vacuum chamber