MiniLab 080 Used to Develop “HexAuFoil” for Ultra-High Resolution cryo-EM

Cryo-EM is now widely used for imaging biological molecules but further advances in resolution that could yield enhanced structural data are impeded due to movement of water/ice layers that occur on exposure to electron beam irradiation

Recently, researchers Katerina Naydenova, Peipei Jia and Christopher J. Russo at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge developed a thorough understanding of the physics causing this movement and designed an optimised sample-support grid as a solution. This new type of grid, called “HexAuFoil”, was produced using a Moorfield MiniLab 080 electron-beam evaporation tool with cryogenically cooled substrate stage and low-contamination base pressures well into the 3 × 10-8 mbar.

HexAuFoil. Image courtesy of Neil Grant from the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology

Throughout substantial testing, HexAuFoil grids enabled massive reduction in sample movement during imaging. In fact, movement was reduced to the level of underlying physical limits—around the diameter of a hydrogen atom in amplitude. The researchers demonstrated the use of HexAuGrid foils for highly effective visualisation of molecular structure.

For more information, see their excellent article “Cryo-EM with sub–1 Å specimen movement” published in Science.

About the MiniLab 080

The researchers used a MiniLab 080 high-vacuum evaporation tool operating at a base pressure < 5 × 10-8 mbar. The system is equipped with a load-lock and a cryogenically cooled substrate stage which reaches a temperature of 80 Kelvin. As well as electron-beam evaporation, the unit is also fitted with supporting sources for resistive evaporation, allowing for a wide range of applications. The tool has a 6”/150 mm stage, 50 cm throw distance, wafer load lock, a compact form and an easy-to-use software interface with automatic high-precision rate and thickness control.

Moorfield MiniLab 080

With high-vacuum base pressures, state-of-the-art hardware, compact footprints and powerful control, MiniLab tools provide flexible, powerful platforms ideal for R&D of any kind.

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