Use of Transmission Electron Microscopy for Analysis of Aerosol Particles and Strategies for Imaging Fragile Particles

Emily Jean E. Ott, Theresa M. Kucinski, Joseph Nelson Dawson, Miriam Arak Freedman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


For over 25 years, transmission electron microscopy (TEM) has provided a method for the study of aerosol particles with sizes from below the optical diffraction limit to several microns, resolving the particles as well as smaller features. The wide use of this technique to study aerosol particles has contributed important insights about environmental aerosol particle samples and model atmospheric systems. TEM produces an image that is a 2D projection of aerosol particles that have been impacted onto grids and, through associated techniques and spectroscopies, can contribute additional information such as the determination of elemental composition, crystal structure, and 3D particle structures. Soot, mineral dust, and organic/inorganic particles have all been analyzed using TEM and spectroscopic techniques. TEM, however, has limitations that are important to understand when interpreting data including the ability of the electron beam to damage and thereby change the structure and shape of particles, especially in the case of particles composed of organic compounds and salts. In this paper, we concentrate on the breadth of studies that have used TEM as the primary analysis technique. Another focus is on common issues with TEM and cryogenic-TEM. Insights for new users on best practices for fragile particles, that is, particles that are easily susceptible to damage from the electron beam, with this technique are discussed. Tips for readers on interpreting and evaluating the quality and accuracy of TEM data in the literature are also provided and explained.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11347-11356
Number of pages10
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number33
StatePublished - Aug 24 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Analytical Chemistry


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