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SEM Cryotransfer system, Alto 2100

Core Imaging Facility

alto 2100 cryo transfer chamber

The ALTO 2100 system uses a high-stability SEM cold stage with a cooling circuit that is independent of the SEM vacuum and therefore compatible with low vacuum and environmental modes of operation.

Gatan Alto 2100 cryo system consists of

  • A 2 pot freezing station to produce nitrogen slush and loading pre-frozen samples
  • A vacuum transfer device enables loading of frozen samples into cryo preparation chamber.
  • A dedicated cryo-preparation chamber with an integral nitrogen dewar for contamination free transfer to the SEM with no degradation of SEM performance.  
  • A high stability, gas-cooled, cold stage module fitted to the SEM stage enabling vibration free SEM imaging under frozen condition
  • A built in cold knife fracture device

What are the advantages of cryo-SEM over other preparation techniques?

  • Cryo SEM is the solution for imaging hydrated, beam sensitive, volatile and low melting point specimens that are normaly difficult to image in traditional SEM
  • A rapidly frozen cryo-SEM sample is as close as possible to its natural state.
  • Chemical fixation can be avoided. No use of solvents, which can sometimes remove certain sample components
  • No dehydration, therefore delicate structures are maintained without shrinkage.
  • Fast freezing means chemical balance is well maintained for microanalysis
  • A soft, volatile or liquid sample is stabilized under the electron beam.
  • Materials which are normally soft at room temperature can be fractured under cryogenic conditions. 
  • Freeze fracture and controlled freeze etching allows optimum exposure of internal microstructure and reveal the dispersion of components and phases in a system such as an emulsion or suspension.
  • Cryo-SEM sample preparation time is less than 10 minutes

Selected cryo SEM images

cryo SEM, spinal cord
Spinal cord, fractured
Cryo SEM

cryoSEM, kidney
Kidney, fractured
Cryo SEM

cryo SEM scaffolding
Fibrin hydrogel scaffolding material
Freeze fractured and etched


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