249 — A carbon nanotube tape for serial-section electron microscopy of brain ultrastructure

Kubota et al (10.1038/s41467-017-02768-7)

Read on 26 April 2018
#neuroscience  #Kapton  #carbon-nanotubes  #CNT  #tape  #serial-section-EM  #EM  #imaging  #materials 

Up until this point, I’ve only read one paper about carbon nanotubes, and it was referring to spider silk. (If you didn’t read that one…. you should. Not only was it my 100th post, but it was also something that sounded like a not real thing.)

Something that I haven’t discussed in my many previous posts about electron-microscopy connectomics is the importance of the tape used to image the brain: The tape used for serial-section EM is conventionally carbon-coated (cc) Kapton tape, which, as far as I’m concerned, is already a supermaterial.

But it doesn’t have a particularly robust surface, and suffers from scratches, high resistance, and tears. If only we knew of a technology that formed strong, rigid, ultrathin, low-resistance sheets!

Aha! Enter carbon nanotubes (CNT). CNTs are highly hydrophilic, so a tape made from CNTs (which has been plasma-treated to increase hydrophily) permits far less wrinkling in the imaged tissue than Kapton tape. Moreover, it doesn’t dramatically affect image resolution or contrast, which makes it a perfect stand-in replacement for conventional tapes.

The one large shortcoming is still the cost of manufacture, but I believe that this won’t be a problem for long, in light of recent technological improvements.