When Temperature Matters – Cryo TEM

What is Cryo TEM?

As innovation in technology propels us into the future, the importance of new materials continues to increase. These materials are used to develop and enhance new products. Analytical testing can help to better understand the composition of a new material or to help solve a failure during product development or after product release.

In our blog, ‘A Solution for Sensitive Materials – Cryo FIB’, we discussed how materials are not equal in how they react to certain techniques or environments. Some materials are more sensitive to air and temperature, making them more prone to damage during analysis. In addition to Cryo FIB, Eurofins EAG also offers Cryogenic Transmission Electron Microscopy (Cryo TEM) which provides another solution for sensitive materials. Cryo FIB is used to prepare samples for TEM and can provide imaging using SEM. Cryo TEM can provide even better resolution and additional information such as chemical state and elemental mapping using Electron Energy Loss Spectroscopy (EELS) and Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (EDS).

Cryo TEM for battery and air sensitive materials

What is Cryo TEM?

Cryo TEM involves performing Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) analysis while keeping the sample at cryogenic temperatures, around -170°C. For years, Cryo TEM was primarily used within the biological community to study biomolecule structures. The lower temperature helped to prevent damage to the samples from the electron beam. With the development of new batteries, similar beam damage problems can occur which has piqued new interest in Cryo TEM.

Advantages of Cryo TEM

At Eurofins EAG, we tailor projects to not only meet the needs of our clients, but to provide the best data. We acquired a Cryo TEM tool to help improve data collection for battery materials, polymers, ceramics and more. For temperature sensitive materials, the energy of the incident beam can generate heat on a sample which can affect material structure, morphology, and phase change. Heat can cause atoms to rearrange their structure, thereby changing their chemical state. Introducing a lower temperature environment can minimize beam damage and preserve material structure. The following examples compare room temperature TEM to Cryo TEM.
room temperature and Cryo TEM

A hole (circled in red, left image) can be drilled in the sample (lithium containing materials) right after the electron beam shines on the sample inside TEM at room temperature, which makes it impossible to study the materials.

On the other hand, once the sample is cooled down to cryogenic temperature, the sample is very stable, and no obvious change is observed after 30 mins (right image).

With our many years of materials expertise and extensive research, Eurofins EAG can identify material problems to help you launch your product faster and more efficiently. Contact us today to learn how we can help.

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