Transmission Electron Microscopy of Graphene and Hydrated Biomaterial Nanostructures : Novel Techniques and Analysis

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Transmission Electron Microscopy of Graphene and Hydrated Biomaterial Nanostructures : Novel Techniques and Analysis


Akhtar, Sultan



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Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) on light element materials and soft matters is problematic due to electron irradiation damage and low contrast. In this doctoral thesis techniques were developed to address some of those issues and successfully characterize these materials at high resolution. These techniques were demonstrated on graphene flakes, DNA/magnetic beads and a number of water containing biomaterials. The details of these studies are given below. A TEM based method was presented for thickness characterization of graphene flakes. For the thickness characterization, the dynamical theory of electron diffraction is used to obtain an analytical expression for the intensity of the transmitted electron beam as a function of thickness. From JEMS simulations (experiments) the absorption constant 955; in a low symmetry orientation was found to be ~ 208 nm (225 ± 9 nm). When compared to standard techniques for thickness determination of graphene/graphite, the method has the advantage of being relatively simple, fast and requiring only the acquisition of bright-field (BF) images. Using the proposed method, it is possible to measure the thickness change due to one monolayer of graphene if the flake has uniform thickness over a larger area. A real-space TEM study on magnetic bead-DNA coil interaction was conducted and a statistical analysis of the number of beads attached to the DNA-coils was performed. The average number of beads per DNA coil was calculated around 6 and slightly above 2 for samples with 40 nm and 130 nm beads, respectively. These results are in good agreement with magnetic measurements. In addition, the TEM analysis supported an earlier hypothesis that 40 nm beads are preferably attached interior of the DNA-coils while 130 nm beads closer to the exterior of the coils. A focused ion-beam in-situ lift-out technique for hydrated biological specimens was developed for cryo-TEM. The technique was demonstrated on frozen Aspergillus niger spores which were frozen with liquid nitrogen to preserve their cellular structures. A thin lamella was prepared, lifted out and welded to a TEM grid. Once the lamella was thinned to electron transparency, the grid was cryogenically transferred to the TEM using a cryo-transfer bath. The structure of the cells was revealed by BF imaging. Also, a series of energy filtered images was acquired and C, N and Mn elemental maps were produced. Furthermore, 3 Å lattice fringes of the underlying Al support were successfully resolved by high resolution imaging, confirming that the technique has the potential to extract structural information down to the atomic scale. The experimental protocol is ready now to be employed on a large variety of samples e.g. soft/hard matter interfaces.