The age of David and Goliath

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Hi everyone, I hope you all had a happy Christmas and New Year and that the year so far has been a good one. In the run up to Christmas, I was thinking what a year it has been! Following on from fantastic summer of meetings and the recent Nobel prizes for chemistry for the development of super-resolution microscopy techniques, there has never been a better time to be working in the field of microscopy!

This year the RMS celebrated its 175th anniversary and with successful MMC meeting this year including and M&M and IMC meetings we can see that microscopy is alive and kicking, showing no signs of going out to pasture. Looking ahead, 2015 is the international year of light, to which so many of our microscopy techniques intrinsically are linked.

Over the past months I've noticed many exciting developments throughout microscopy, both from big companies making 'big' instruments and smaller companies who are developing 'smaller' instruments. Of course this should not be taken too literally as we are all aware of many 'big' companies who manufacture and sell smaller microscopes (or vice-versa), however, I'm talking about the ones who make custom or new instruments based on new ideas and commercialise their potential or who make waves in what is thought to be possible. 

One small company that has come back time and again are Delft based Delmic, who launched a combined SEM-fluorescence microscopy platform in 2012. This year at IMC they launched a desktop SEM which has a built in fluorescence stage, called the Delphi. This is exactly what I'm talking about, a big idea, in a small (convenient) package that fits on your bench, rather than taking up a whole room, this is the David, rather than the Goliath. 

Advertising for the Delphi, a combined desktop SEM and fluorescence microscope (courtesy Delmic)

There can be no doubt that the Goliaths of the microscopy world are the FEI Titan and the recently launched JEOL Grand ARM, not that the names suggest anything else! These 300 kV instruments come as spherical aberration corrected (Cs) corrected ultra-high resolution solutions (one of them claims 63 picometer resolution), requiring a dedicated environment, room, operator and some serious cash!


The goliaths of the EM world, the JEOL Grand ARM (courtesy JEOL USA) and the FEI Titan (courtesy FEI).

To counter that, the ‘David’ of the TEM world has recently emerged from Delong Instruments to bring out a product known as the LVEM25 or the MiniTEM (collaboration between Vironova and Delong). Some of you may remember the LVEM5 instrument (also from Delong) that I mentioned in a post about desktop EMs. I went to IMC quite unaware that there was a new tool in the arsenal for those seeking results at lower cost. This fully functional TEM operates at 25kV but is a bench top solution, offered at a fraction of the price of a traditional TEM. Obviously at this point anything beyond fairly standard bright field TEM and STEM is out of the question, however, at the end of the day, as users we have a choice based on needs, applications, location and budget and I’m sure there will plenty of takers for this option.

The LVSEM also known as the Mini-TEM, from Delong Instruments (courtesy Delong)

Another Goliath of the microscopy world Carl Zeiss has recently released a unique twist on the scanning electron microscope in the form of a multi-beam SEM for large area / scale imaging, called the MultiSEM. This platform was released at the recent Neuroscience event in November and consists of 61 parallel beams that can be used to image multiple sections of brain (or anything else for that matter) on a silicon wafer. Again this goes to demonstrate my point, another big idea to image small samples and even smaller structures.

The Zeiss MuntiSEM, which uses 61 parallel beams (courtesy Zeiss)

All of these and so many others I couldn’t mention go to probe that whether big or small in size, what’s key is the passion and drive of the manufacturers to solve the problems of users and push the boundaries of science and medicine for us all.

I hope you’ll check back soon and see what we have next on the blog and stay in touch with us via Facebook and Twitter or drop me a line at

I wish each and every one of you a happy, health, productive 2015l!!


Editor, Microscopy & Analysis 


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