AIF’s Growth into Biological Imaging for Life Sciences

The NC State Analytical Instrumentation Facility (AIF) is executing a strategic initiative to serve life sciences researchers. With our recently upgraded sample preparation labs with cryogenic instrumentation, we offer a collection of cutting-edge instruments capable of probing the characteristics of samples consisting of plant and animal matter across a broad range of length scales, thereby enabling researchers to discover fundamental properties of soft and/or biological materials and systems:

~700 nm: The 3D X-Ray Microscope (XRM) (a.k.a. nano-CT) enables visualization and measurement of the internal structures and complex interfaces within a broad range of materials, including bone, biopolymers, and fibrous materials. (Obtained information: nano- and microscale structure, density, etc.)

~500 nm: The Confocal Raman Microscope provides microscale spatial distribution of chemical composition based on the intensity of peaks across the soft and/or biological samples. (Obtained information: chemical composition and sample images)

~300 nm: Time-of-Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (ToF-SIMS) provides spatially continuous measurement and molecular mapping. It is capable of identifying impurities on biomaterial surfaces of medical implants. (Obtained information: chemical composition and sample images)

~1-2 nm: Cryo-SEM is used to observe the ultrastructures of significant molecules; cells, nanoparticles, intracellular organelles, and macromolecular complexes in their native hydrated states. (Obtained information: microstructures)

~0.2 nm Cryo-TEM provides new insights into the structure and biology of protein complexes, viruses, and biological macromolecules. (Obtained information: molecular structures)

For example, the AIF will be organizing a soft/bio-materials users group meeting; at least 15 PIs and their students have already expressed interest. The meeting will focus on utilizing current instruments and obtaining potential future equipment. The meeting date and agenda will be posted soon. If you’re interested in attending this meeting, please email Dr. Shadow Huang at Sample preparation workshops and short courses will also be organized by our Bio-Electron Microscopy Staff Scientist, Dr. Aaron Bell, with a particular emphasis on cryogenic sample preparation methods. The contents of these workshops and short courses will be informed in part from the users group meeting. These education programs will empower our research community to leverage AIF capabilities to their fullest.

The AIF aims to propel NC State research activities forward and fosters the initiation of new interdisciplinary research activities across campus. We envision acquiring several new instruments to better integrate our established physical sciences capabilities with the growth of life science research. To meet researcher needs, we are currently planning future instrumentation proposals, which includes:

  • Plasma-enhanced Focused Ion Beam (pFIB);
  • Cryo-FIB with Multi-Ion DualBeam
  • High Pressure Freezer (HPF) / Automated Freeze Substitution (AFS)
  • All-in-one-Fluorescence Microscope
  • Critical Point Dryer
  • Nanoscale IR Spectroscopy System