Skip to main content
A new electron microscope for the UB

A new electron microscope for the UB

This unique top-level equipment will open research and technological innovation lines in the field of 'in situ' experimentation

The University of Barcelona, through the Scientific and Technological Centers (CCiTUB), has obtained through a public request a new state-of-the-art equipment of electron microscopy, valued in 3.35 million euros. This acquisition has taken place within the frame of the project Electron Microscopy for Research, Innovation and Technological Transfer (MERIT). This is one of the seven cooperative projects of the Catalan knowledge system co-funded by 50% with the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Catalonia Operational Programme 2014-2020.

They will see structural and chemical changes that occur at nanometric and even atomic resolution, in processes such as the degradation of electrochemical batteries or the synthesis of nanoparticles

With this microscope, the researchers will be able to alter the temperature of the sample, apply an electric polarization and work in liquid mediums. Therefore, they will see structural and chemical changes that occur at nanometric and even atomic resolution, in processes such as the degradation of electrochemical batteries or the synthesis of nanoparticles, among others. The chance to work with high-sensitive and ultra-rapid direct detection opens the door to the reconstruction of three-dimensional biomolecules and viruses, the dynamical observation of the distribution of proteins, virus and nanoparticles in cell membranes, and to the analyses of the protein interaction at a nanometric scale for understanding phenomena of aggregation or stabilization of substances of therapeutical interest.

The rector of the University of Barcelona, Joan Guàrdia, expressed his satisfaction for the UB’s obtention of a unique infrastructure: “Innovation is part of our university’s DNA. In this sense, this microscope, which joins the acquisition of the first high-field nuclear magnetic resonance device in Spain, means we continue to advance in the leading research line in different fields of science”.

The director of CCiTUB, Juan Fran Sangüesa, noted that “Thanks to this infrastructure, which combines the highest performance of a high-resolution and analytical microscope equipment with innovative features, we will boost interdisciplinary projects. We will promote the collaboration with other centres and institutes, not only from our environment but at a national and international scale”.

Francesca Peiró, scientific coordinator of the Barcelona section in the scientific and technical infrastructure ELECMI, highlights that “this unique equipment will have state-of-the-art detectors of electrons and X-rays and will enable a dynamic control of the dose of electrons and low-voltage operation, which will facilitate the experimentation with beam-sensitive samples”.

The new device, to be installed in the facilities of CCiTUB in the Barcelona Science Park, will be part of the catalogue of the Centres and therefore, will be accessible for the scientific community, the public research institutions and the business sector.


On the left, an image of a graphene layer performed at an acceleration voltage of 80 kV. On the right, image of gallium nitride performed at an acceleration voltage of 200 kV.
On the left, an image of a graphene layer performed at an acceleration voltage of 80 kV. On the right, image of gallium nitride performed at an acceleration voltage of 200 kV.


The MERIT project is built by a consortium led by the UB which includes the participation of the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC), the Bosch i Gimpera Foundation (UB), the Biomedical Research Institute of Bellvitge (IDIBELL), the August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBAPS) and the Sant Joan de Déu Foundation.

The origins of electron microscopy at the UB

This acquisition occurs after 56 years of the arrival of the first transmission electron microscope at the University of Barcelona. On July 16, 1966, the Phillips EM 200 model was installed in what would be called Electron Microscopy Service, located in the Science Courtyard of the Historical Building.

This microscope was the working tool for many doctoral students who, from 1973 to 1995, were working on doctoral theses of ultrastructural nature. Mercè Durfort, professor of Biology at the UB, who recently passed away, was the first to use it for her doctoral thesis “Ultraestructura de la gònada femenina de alguns mol·luscs”, in 1973, and which obtained the cum laude qualification.

Link to the CCiTUB article.

The first transmission electron microscope of the University of Barcelona, installed on July 15, 1966. It was the Phillips EM 200 model.
Transmission and tracking electron microscope obtained by the UB.