Damage-free vibrational spectroscopy of biological materials in the electron microscope

Peter Rez, Toshihiro Aoki, Katia March, Dvir Gur, Ondrej L. Krivanek, Niklas Dellby, Tracy C. Lovejoy, Sharon G. Wolf, Hagai Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

109 Scopus citations


Vibrational spectroscopy in the electron microscope would be transformative in the study of biological samples, provided that radiation damage could be prevented. However, electron beams typically create high-energy excitations that severely accelerate sample degradation. Here this major difficulty is overcome using an 'aloof' electron beam, positioned tens of nanometres away from the sample: high-energy excitations are suppressed, while vibrational modes of energies <1 eV can be 'safely' investigated. To demonstrate the potential of aloof spectroscopy, we record electron energy loss spectra from biogenic guanine crystals in their native state, resolving their characteristic C-H, N-H and C=O vibrational signatures with no observable radiation damage. The technique opens up the possibility of non-damaging compositional analyses of organic functional groups, including non-crystalline biological materials, at a spatial resolution of ∼10 nm, simultaneously combined with imaging in the electron microscope.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number10945
JournalNature communications
StatePublished - Mar 10 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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