"Opportunities for Cryogenic Electron Microscopy in Materials Science and Nanoscience"

Yanbin Li,: William Huang, Yuzhang Li, Wah Chiu, and Yi Cui; ACS Nano, 07/28/20.

Additional Authors: William Huang, Yuzhang Li, Wah Chiu, and Yi Cui


Cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) was the basis for the 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for its profound impact on the field of structural biology by freezing and stabilizing fragile biomolecules for near atomic-resolution imaging in their native states. Beyond life science, the development of cryo-EM for the physical sciences may offer access to previously inaccessible length scales for materials characterization in systems that would otherwise be too sensitive for high-resolution electron microscopy and spectroscopy. Weakly bonded and reactive materials that typically degrade under electron irradiation and environmental exposure can potentially be stabilized by cryo-EM, opening up exciting opportunities to address many central questions in materials science. New discoveries and fundamental breakthroughs in understanding are likely to follow. In this Perspective, we identify six major areas in materials science that may benefit from the interdisciplinary application of cryo-EM: (1) batteries, (2) soft polymers, (3) metal−organic frameworks, (4) perovskite solar cells, (5) electrocatalysts, and (6) quantum materials. We highlight long-standing questions in each of these areas that cryo-EM can potentially address, which would firmly establish the powerful tool’s broad scope and utility beyond biology.