NETHERLANDS ELECTRON MICROSCOPY INFRASTRUCTURE (NEMI)

NEMI is the central point for EM infrastructure, innovation and access in The Netherlands.

The revolution in electron microscopy (EM) has greatly increased the demand for high-end EM in in both Life Sciences and Materials Sciences. The NEMI infrastructure is distributed, with multiple specialized nodes focusing on particular methodologies and expertise. The Dutch research community benefits from NEMI by sharing cross-disciplinary expertise, state-of-the-art equipment, and by coordinating funding opportunities.

MISSION AND GOALS OF NEMI

  1. Ensuring access to the most advanced EM technologies to all in the life and materials science.
  2. Accelerating innovations in EM, enabling novel applications of societal and economic importance.

NEMI goals:

  • coordinate and harmonize EM infrastructure deployment;
  • create a strong and innovative Dutch EM infrastructure;
  • differentiated investments at regional Flagship Nodes, based on local strengths and opportunities;
  • connect EM for the life sciences with EM for the materials sciences;
  • provide access, services and training to state-of-the-art EM technologies;
  • increase the accessibility of the EM methodology to non-EM specialists;
  • foster cooperation between instrumentation developers, providers, scientists, industry, national and European funding schemes and national authorities;
  • better use the EM capacities of the Dutch labs;
  • speak with one voice to (inter)national funders;
  • promote FAIR principles of EM data.

EM has enabled numerous scientific discoveries and industrial innovations in a range of disciplines, most notably the life and materials science.

Life sciences EM: the basic concept of life.

EM is indispensable to address biological structures both at cellular and molecular scales. It has revealed how each cell of the human body is divided into membrane compartments with specialized functions that together organize a diversity of processes. Recent developments in EM at extremely low temperatures even allow to zoom in to atomic resolution and see individual proteins or protein complexes within the native environment of the cell. This provides critical insights in the molecular processes of diseases (e.g. transformation of cancer cells, disease-causing mechanisms in the ageing brain) and human development (e.g. differentiation and renewal of stem cells). Indeed, molecular and cellular defects underlie most diseases.

Life Sciences EM. Left and middle panel: Artist impressions highlighting that EM has led to understanding the basic concept of life by revealing processes at the cellular (left) and molecular (centre) level. Individual proteins within the native environment of the cell can be imaged by EM. Right panel: EM image color coding distinct compartments in the cell.

Recent innovations in automated imaging in 2D (x,y axes; large-scale EM) and 3D (x,y,z axes; volume-EM) are creating unprecedented possibilities to reveal the architecture of cells within the context of their complex environment, such as tumors and even entire brains.
cryo-EM not only has revolutionized academic research, but pharmaceutical and biotech industry have also embraced this emerging technology. Cryo-EM covers a key resolution (sub-nanometer) and spatial range window, that allows (bio)chemistry-driven research on molecular structure and biology-driven research on cellular structure to be bridged.

MATERIAL SCIENCES EM

EM is the only technique available that can image the atomic structure of materials with (sub) nanometer resolution. Using analytical tools, also the chemical composition and electronic properties can be mapped in 2D or in 3D at the nanometer scale. These detailed characterizations are of major importance to research fields such as the geosciences, metallurgy, catalysis and semiconductors (hard matter), to polymeric materials, materials for tissue regeneration and foods (soft matter) and materials based on colloids (where soft and hard matter meet).

EM for materials science. Nanomaterials are nowadays abundantly used in displays, batteries, and solar cells, and as catalysts for efficient conversion of energy resources. Characterization and development of these nanostructured materials requires imaging at the level of individual atoms, which can be achieved with the newest generation of aberration-corrected electron microscopes.

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