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Liquid‐Cell Electron Microscopy of Adsorbed Polymers


Individual macromolecules of polystyrene sulfonate and poly(ethylene oxide) are visualized with nanometer resolution using transmission electron microscopy (TEM) imaging of aqueous solutions with and without added salt, trapped in liquid pockets between creased graphene sheets. Successful imaging with 0.3 s per frame is enabled by the sluggish mobility of the adsorbed molecules. This study finds, validating others, that an advantage of this graphene liquid‐cell approach is apparently to retard sample degradation from incident electrons, in addition to minimizing background scattering because graphene windows are atomically thin. Its new application here to polymers devoid of metal‐ion labeling allows the projected sizes and conformational fluctuations of adsorbed molecules and adsorption–desorption events to be analyzed. Confirming the identification of the observed objects, this study reports statistical analysis of datasets of hundreds of images for times up to 100 s, with variation of the chemical makeup of the polymer, the molecular weight of the polymer, and the salt concentration. This observation of discrete polymer molecules in solution environment may be useful generally, as the findings are obtained using an ordinary TEM microscope, whose kind is available to many researchers routinely.

Direct real‐space investigation of adsorbed polymer dynamics, with single‐polymer resolution using conventional transmission electron microscopy (TEM) (transmission liquid microscope) and a graphene liquid cell, gives a time series of polymer images which enables statistical analysis of projected sizes, conformational rearrangements, and adsorption dynamics. This demonstrates the capability of imaging polymers in solution using a conventional TEM.

Authors:   Kandula Hima Nagamanasa, Huan Wang, Steve Granick
Journal:   Advanced Materials
Volume:   29
edition:   41
Year:   2017
Pages:   n/a
DOI:   10.1002/adma.201703555
Publication date:   18-Sep-2017
Facts, background information, dossiers
  • events
  • ethylene oxide
  • electrons
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