Microtomy

MicrotomeMicrotomy encompasses a range of techniques used to produce thin slices, or sections, of samples for examination by microscopy. Sections are typically examined via some form of transmission microscopy; a beam of light, or electrons, passes through the sample, producing an image which is effectively a kind of shadow.

The Laboratory houses two Reichert ultramicrotomes, which can be used to cut sections in a range of thicknesses. Sections between 1 and 2 micrometres thick are termed 'thick sections' and may used for . 'Semithin sections' are those between 99 nanometres and 0.99 micrometres thick, these are used in light microscopy as 'survey sections' when preparing samples for Transmission Electron Microscopy. 'Ultrathin sections' are between 5 and 99 nanometres thick, and are used for TEM studies.

To cut these sections the ultramicrotomes use knives made of either glass or diamond, depending upon the user's requirements.

Many samples must first be embedded in a block of resin before sectioning is possible, this can be carried out in the Sample Preparation Lab

The Laboratory also has a rotary microtome with a freezing sample holder. This allows otherwise soft materials, such as polymer samples, to be sectioned. The rotary microtome can cut sections of between 5 and 50 micrometres thick.

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