Direct observation of liquid crystals using cryo-TEM: Specimen preparation and low-dose imaging

Gao, Min; Kim, Young-Ki; Zhang, Cuiyu; Borshch, Volodymyr; Zhou, Shuang; Park, Heung-Shik; Jákli, Antal; Lavrentovich, Oleg D; Tamba, Maria-Gabriela; Kohlmeier, Alexandra; Mehl, Georg H; Weissflog, Wolfgang; Studer, Daniel Franz; Zuber, Benoît; Gnägi, Helmut; Lin, Fang (2014). Direct observation of liquid crystals using cryo-TEM: Specimen preparation and low-dose imaging. Microscopy research and technique, 77(10), pp. 754-772. Wiley-Liss 10.1002/jemt.22397

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Liquid crystals (LCs) represent a challenging group of materials for direct transmission electron microscopy (TEM) studies due to the complications in specimen preparation and the severe radiation damage. In this paper, we summarize a series of specimen preparation methods, including thin film and cryo-sectioning approaches, as a comprehensive toolset enabling high-resolution direct cryo-TEM observation of a broad range of LCs. We also present comparative analysis using cryo-TEM and replica freeze-fracture TEM on both thermotropic and lyotropic LCs. In addition to the revisits of previous practices, some new concepts are introduced, e.g., suspended thermotropic LC thin films, combined high-pressure freezing and cryo-sectioning of lyotropic LCs, and the complementary applications of direct TEM and indirect replica TEM techniques. The significance of subnanometer resolution cryo-TEM observation is demonstrated in a few important issues in LC studies, including providing direct evidences for the existence of nanoscale smectic domains in nematic bent-core thermotropic LCs, comprehensive understanding of the twist-bend nematic phase, and probing the packing of columnar aggregates in lyotropic chromonic LCs. Direct TEM observation opens ways to a variety of TEM techniques, suggesting that TEM (replica, cryo, and in situ techniques), in general, may be a promising part of the solution to the lack of effective structural probe at the molecular scale in LC studies. Microsc. Res. Tech. 77:754-772, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > Institute of Anatomy

UniBE Contributor:

Studer, Daniel Franz and Zuber, Benoît


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health








Benoît Zuber

Date Deposited:

13 Oct 2014 15:50

Last Modified:

11 Dec 2015 10:41

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

freeze fracture, high-pressure freezing, CEMOVIS, thermotropic, lyotropic




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