One limitation in electron cryo-microscopy (cryo-EM) is the inability to recover high-resolution signal from the image-recording media at the full-resolution limit of the transmission electron microscope. Direct electron detection using CMOS-based sensors for digitally recording images has the potential to alleviate this shortcoming. Here, we report a practical performance evaluation of a Direct Detection Device (DDD®) for biological cryo-EM at two different microscope voltages: 200 and 300 kV. Our DDD images of amorphous and graphitized carbon show strong per-pixel contrast with image resolution near the theoretical sampling limit of the data. Single-particle reconstructions of two frozen-hydrated bacteriophages, P22 and ε15, establish that the DDD is capable of recording usable signal for 3D reconstructions at about 4/5 of the Nyquist frequency, which is a vast improvement over the performance of conventional imaging media. We anticipate the unparalleled performance of this digital recording device will dramatically benefit cryo-EM for routine tomographic and single-particle structural determination of biological specimens.
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