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Bringing Polymers into Atomic-Scale Focus
A team of Foundry users and staff have developed a new technique in cryo-electron microscopy to image synthetic polymers with atomic-scale resolution.
Significance and Impact
This is the first time a polymer has been imaged with 2 angstrom resolution. The new technique will inform polymer fabrication methods and lead to new designs for materials and devices that incorporate polymers.
- The research team synthesized peptoid polymers, froze them to preserve their structure, and then imaged them using an electron beam.
The researchers were able to obtain images with 2 angstrom resolution by taking over 500,000 blurry images, sorting different motifs into different "bins," and averaging the images in each bin.
The sorting methods they used were based on algorithms developed by the structural biology community to image the atomic structure of proteins
- The team used molecular dynamic simulations to build an atomic model of the crystal structure to facilitate the interpretation of the images.
X. Jiang, D.R. Greer, J. Kundu, C. Ophus, A.M. Minor, D. Prendergast, R.N. Zuckermann, N. P. Balsara, K.H. Downing. Macromolecules. (2018). 51(19) 7794-7799. DOI:10.1021/acs.macromol.8b01508