eTraining Introduction

Specimen Preparation

Leica Ultracut UCT



Hitachi S-4700 FE-SEM

Hitachi FB-2000A FIB


Veeco Dim 3000 AFM

Fluorescence Microscopes


Cryo Fracture Technique

Researchers often wish to investigate inner surfaces of soft or hard materials. In some cases, time-consuming sectioning or polishing steps are not needed. A fast fracture method involves simply breaking the specimen into two pieces after flash freezing in liquid nitrogen (LN2). The procedure is as follows.

Click to enlarge images.

  1. Wear proper protection gear for using LN2. See Properties of LN2 in General Lab Safety under Support.
  2. Pour a small amount of LN2 into a stable, insulated vessel of sufficient size to fit your specimen and a pair of tweezers.
  3. Plunge the specimen into the LN2 while holding with tweezers or sharp nosed pliers. Keep submerged in LN2 until bubbling stops.
  4. Quickly remove the specimen, grip with another pair of pliers or tweezers, then break into two pieces.
  5. Note that very brittle materials may shatter. Protect your skin and eyes, and contain the pieces.
  6. Frost will form on the specimen in humid air, so place specimen in a vacuum chamber of some kind before placing in the SEM.

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