August 31, 2016 | News

Illuminating structures with electrons

Latest detector system installed on the FEI Titan Krios microscope will make it the most powerful microscope in Australia.

The flagship FEI Titan Krios Transmission Electron Microscope at the Monash Ramaciotti Centre for Cryo-Electron Microscopy was recently fitted with a Gatan K2 Summit detector and a high performance Quantum Energy Filter.

The new system is the first of its kind in Australia and makes the facility Australia’s most powerful EM facility for structural biology.

The existing FEI Falcon II detector is a highly automated system that has been generating amazing new insights into the structure of larger proteins.

The K2 detector is a complementary, low throughput detector system to the currently installed FEI Falcon detector. The K2 utilises a single electron counting detection mechanism that gives the camera enhanced sensitivity over the Falcon detector. This feature is particularly important for solving the structures of smaller molecular weight proteins. The energy filter also equips the microscope with enhanced ability for high-resolution tomography experiments through thicker samples such as cellular sections.

Imaging CoE Director, James Whisstock is looking forward to the competitive advantage the system will bring.

“The addition of the Gatan K2 Summit detector and energy filter system makes our microscope the most powerful and versatile one in Australia,” he explains. “It will provide our structural biologists with a significant edge on a global scale because it is the only one in Australia, and one of only a handful of such systems worldwide.”

Monash University Vice-Provost (Research and Research Infrastructure), Ian Smith, agrees with James.

“The investment in the Cryo-EM platform reflects our commitment to maintaining our world-leading position in biological electron microscopy,” Ian says.

“The platform is already generating world-class research outcomes, and this new detector system will ensure we continue to stay at the leading edge internationally in this arena.”

James, along with Imaging CoE Deputy Director Katharina Gaus, Associate Investigator Robert Pike and WEHI Professor Mike Lawrence were the Chief Investigators on the ARC Linkage, Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) grant that made this key piece of research infrastructure possible.

The purchase of the K2 Summit detector and energy filter system was also supported by cash contributions from Monash University, the University of New South Wales, the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and La Trobe University.