A ‘NanoSuit’ surface shield successfully protects organisms in high vacuum: Observations on living organisms in an FE-SEM

Yasuharu Takaku, Hiroshi Suzuki, Isao Ohta, Takami Tsutsui, Haruko Matsumoto, Masatsugu Shimomura, Takahiko Hariyama

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    13 Citations (Scopus)


    Although extremely useful for a wide range of investigations, the field emission scanning electron microscope (FE-SEM) has not allowed researchers to observe living organisms. However, we have recently reported that a simple surface modification consisting of a thin extra layer, termed ‘NanoSuit’, can keep organisms alive in the high vacuum (10-5 to 10-7 Pa) of the SEM. This paper further explores the protective properties of the NanoSuit surfaceshield. We found that a NanoSuit formed with the optimum concentration of Tween 20 faithfully preserves the integrity of an organism’s surface without interfering with SEM imaging. We also found that electrostatic charging was absent as long as the organisms were alive, even if they had not been coated with electrically conducting materials. This result suggests that living organisms possess their own electrical conductors and/or rely on certain properties of the surface to inhibit charging. The NanoSuit seems to prolong the charge-free condition and increase survival time under vacuum. These findings should encourage the development of more sophisticated observation methods for studying living organisms in an FE-SEM.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number20142857
    Pages (from-to)1-7
    Number of pages7
    JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
    Issue number1802
    Publication statusPublished - 2015 Jan 28


    • Field emission scanning electron microscope
    • High vacuum
    • Living organism
    • NanoSuit
    • Surface shield effect

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
    • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
    • Environmental Science(all)
    • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
    • Medicine(all)


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