Mass Measurements by Scanning Transmission Electron Microscopy


The image of an unstained specimen observed by scanning transmission electron microscopy is a two‐dimensional representation of the distribution of the mass of the specimen projected onto a plane, since elastic scattering of the electrons depends on the electron density, which, in turn, is related directly to the mass density of the object being viewed. If the contribution of the sample support is subtracted and comparison is made with an appropriate mass standard, mass or mass density determinations can be derived.

Keywords: STEM; dark‐field imaging; electron scattering; sample preparation


Thomas D, Schultz P, Steven AC and Wall JS (1994) Mass analysis of biological macromolecular complexes by STEM. Biology of the Cell 80: 181–192.

Wall JS and Hainfeld JF (1986) Mass mapping with the scanning electron microscope. Annual Review of Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry 15: 355–376.

Wall JS, Hainfeld JF and Simon MN (1998) Scanning transmission electron microscopy of nuclear structures. Methods in Cell Biology 53: 139–164.

Further Reading

Wall J (1979) Mass measurements with the electron microscope. In: Hren L, Goldstein J and Jay D (eds) Introduction to Analytical Electron Microscopy, pp. 333–342. New York: Plenum.

Müller SA, Goldie KN, Bürki R, Häring R and Engel A (1992) Factors affecting the precision of scanning transmission electron microscopy. Ultramicroscopy 46: 317–334.

Feja B, Dürrenberger M, Müller S, Reichelt R and Aebi U (1997) Mass determination by inelastic electron scattering in an energy‐filtering transmission electron microscope with slow‐scan CCD camera. Journal of Structural Biology 119: 72–82.

Steven AC (1997) Overview of macromolecular electron microscopy: an essential tool in protein structural analysis. Current Protocols in Protein Science 17.2.1–17.2.29

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Parry, David AD(Apr 2001) Mass Measurements by Scanning Transmission Electron Microscopy. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0002988]