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Ultramicroscopy. 1998 Nov;75(2):85-104.

Cryo X-ray microscopy with high spatial resolution in amplitude and phase contrast.

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  • 1Forschungseinrichtung Röntgenphysik, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Germany.


The resolution of transmission X-ray microscopes (TXMs) using zone plate optics is presently about 30 nm. Theory and experiments presented here show that this resolution can be obtained in radiation sensitive hydrated biological material by using shock frozen samples. For this purpose the interaction of X-rays with matter and the image formation with zone plates is described. For the first time the influence of the limited apertures of the condenser and the zone plate objective are in included in calculations of the image contrast, the photon density and radiation dose required for the object illumination. Model considerations show that lowest radiation dose and high image contrast are obtained in optimized phase contrast which exploits absorption as well as phase shift. The damaging effect of the absorbed X-rays is quantitatively evaluated by radiation-induced kinetics showing that cryogenic samples are structurally stable. To verify these theoretical models the TXM was modified to allow imaging of frozen-hydrated samples at atmospheric pressure. Details inside cells and algae as small as 35 nm are visible at 2.4 nm wavelength in amplitude contrast mode. At this resolution the cryogenic samples show no structural changes. As predicted, optimized phase contrast shows structures inside the frozen-hydrated objects with high contrast. Stereo-pair images of algae reveal the 3D organization of the organelles. Element analysis and micro-tomography of whole cryogenic cells are possible.

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