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FEI Announces Magellan Extreme Resolution SEM for Life Sciences

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FEI Company, a leading instrumentation company providing electron microscope systems for applications in research and industry, today announced the Magellan™ extreme resolution scanning electron microscope (SEM) optimized specifically for life science imaging. The first of its kind, the Magellan SEM enables life science researchers and cell biologists to actually view the entire organization of a cell in its natural, fully-hydrated state. The Magellan’s workflow solution, which includes cryogenic sample preparation and handling, is a repeatable, optimized process to provide the highest quality imaging and analysis results.

“We have been using the Magellan for a year now, and we can conclude that a big step forward has been made in sub-nanometer imaging in plant, agricultural, nutrition and food sciences,” said Adriaan van Aelst, manager, Wageningen Electron Microscopy Centre, Wageningen University, The Netherlands. “The Magellan, together with the implemented cryo system, is an indispensable imaging and analysis tool in our microscopy laboratory. All the users and clients are surprised about the high image quality and stability of the system.”

The Magellan is the only family of SEMs that provides high-throughput, sub-nanometer resolution even at low accelerating voltages, while maintaining the flexibility and ease-of-use that are characteristic of SEM technology. This combination of ultra low-voltage imaging and high-resolution power, along with cryogenic sample preparation and handling, is essential for imaging fragile biological systems, such as cells, viruses, plants, and other living species.
According to Dominique Hubert, FEI’s vice president and general manager for the Life Sciences Division, “FEI raised the bar with the release of the Magellan for materials science and electronics applications in 2008. Now, the addition of a fully integrated workflow for cryo sample preparation and handling in this new Magellan for Life Sciences allows cell biologists to apply the same powerful imaging capabilities to biological systems in their natural state.”

Cryogenic sample preparation and handling are critical in life science applications in order to avoid the harsh chemical drying and fixing procedures otherwise required to make biological samples compatible with the vacuum environment of the SEM. The Magellan cryo workflow starts with vitrification, a freezing process so fast that the water in the sample solidifies without causing visible crystals, thus avoiding the damage normally associated with ice formation.

Once the vitrified sample is transferred to the vacuum chamber, the Magellan delivers sub-nanometer imaging resolution over the full range of accelerating voltages─even below 1kV to 30kV. Operation at low voltages is particularly important to reduce damage to delicate biological samples, improve resolution on light element materials, and increase the surface specificity of the imaging signal. The Magellan delivers all of these benefits without giving up any of the simplicity or flexibility of a conventional SEM.