REVEALING THE SPATIAL ORGANIZATION OF SOFT MATTER SYSTEMS BY CRYO-ELECTRON-TOMOGRAPHY
Self-assembly is a ubiquitous process of soft matter. It relates to spontaneous and controlled formation of a wide variety of complex nanostructures by non-covalent interactions. Determining the structure and the spatial organization, and the conditions influencing the final arrangement is important for understanding biological functions (e.g. of proteins) and utilizing certain structures e.g., micelles and vesicles in areas such as nanotechnology and nanomedicine.
Cryo-transmission electron microscopy (cryo-TEM) is very powerful method for analysing the nanostructure of self-assembled materials at their hydrated state [1, 2]. Cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET) is an innovative extension of cryo-TEM, which enables the creation of the three-dimensional (3D) structure from a series of 2D projections. We have used the two methods combined to study at high resolution the structure of micelles and ribbons [3, 4], and - for the first time – to determine their spatial organization in the bulk (unpublished).
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