TEM Analysis

Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) uses a high-energy electron beam to form high-resolution images of objects on the nanoscale. If the beam passes through the sample, TEM produces highly detailed images of its internal structures. TEM analysis is widely used in material science, microbiology, and nanotechnology.

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How does TEM work?

The basic principle of transmission electron microscopy is similar to that of ordinary optical microscopy. Instead of light TEM uses a transmitted electron beam that penetrates the sample. Because the electrons have a smaller wavelength than light, the formed image has a lot higher resolution compared to traditional light microscopy. The final image is highly detailed and it shows the internal structures of the sample. In some cases, it is even possible to distinguish individual atoms.

Common applications

TEM analysis makes it possible to study the inner biological structures of things like microbes and viruses. This allows TEM to be used in the study of flagellates and cell structures. 

The electronics industry and nanotechnology laboratories use TEM to examine thin film materials. The method is commonly used to search for imperfections, failures, and impurities. 

TEM is also used in electron diffraction to determine the crystal structure of solid samples and reveal crystallographic orientations with high accuracy.


Despite the wide range of applications, TEM has some limitations. Samples must be electron transparent, which means that sample thickness must be 100 nm or less. Larger samples can, however, be processed to fit the requirements. This can be achieved with the help of FIB sample preparation and cross-sectional TEM analysis, which focuses on studying sub-sections of particles that are too large for regular transmission electron microscopy.

TEM samples are also vulnerable to radiation damage from the electron beam.

Suitable sample matrices

  • Materials in the nanoscale
  • Nanoparticles
  • Viruses and microbes
  • Parts of semiconductors
  • Carbon nanotubes, graphenes and other carbon nanomaterials
  • Thin film coatings
  • Cellulose nanofibers

Ideal uses of TEM analysis

  • Failure analysis in electronics manufacturing
  • Imaging in materials science
  • Studying the inner parts of microbes and viruses at an ultrastructural level
  • Determining particle shape and size of nanoparticles
  • Determining the location of catalyst particles in the carrier
  • Imaging cellulose nanofibers
  • Imaging carbon nanotubes, graphene, and other carbon nanomaterials

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Frequently asked questions

What is TEM analysis commonly used for?

TEM is mainly used in the fields of electronics and nanotechnology, but it can also be used in microbial research.

TEM produces high-resolution pictures of thin films that can be used in quality control and fault finding.

What are the limitations of TEM?

Some materials cannot sustain the high-energy electron beam used in TEM.

While TEM images can be taken from particles with a size of several micrometers, the beam only passes through samples with thicknesses less than 100 nm. The internal structure of larger particles cannot be imaged.

What is Measurlabs?

Measurlabs offers a variety of laboratory analyses for product developers and quality managers. We perform some of the analyses in our own lab, but mostly we outsource them to carefully selected partner laboratories. This way we can send each sample to the lab that is best suited for the purpose, and offer high-quality analyses with more than a thousand different methods to our clients.

How does the service work?

When you contact us through our contact form or by email, one of our specialists will take ownership of your case and answer your query. You get an offer with all the necessary details about the analysis, and can send your samples to the indicated address. We will then take care of sending your samples to the correct laboratories and write a clear report on the results for you.

How do I send my samples?

Samples are usually delivered to our laboratory via courier. Contact us for further details before sending samples.