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Methods Mol Biol. 2007;369:507-28.

X-ray microanalysis in the scanning electron microscope.

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Department of Medical Cell Biology, University of Uppsala, Uppsala, Sweden.


X-ray microanalysis conducted using the scanning electron microscope is a technique that allows the determination of chemical elements in bulk or semithick specimens. The lowest concentration of an element that can be detected is in the order of a few mmol/kg or a few hundred parts per million, and the smallest amount is in the order of 10(-18) g. The spatial resolution of the analysis depends on the thickness of the specimen. For biological specimen analysis, care must be taken to prevent displacement/loss of the element of interest (usually ions). Protocols are presented for the processing of frozen-hydrated and freeze-dried specimens, as well as for the analysis of small volumes of fluid, cell cultures and other specimens. Aspects of qualitative and quantitative analysis are covered, including limitations of the technique.

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