Optimizing "self-wicking" nanowire grids

J Struct Biol. 2018 May;202(2):170-174. doi: 10.1016/j.jsb.2018.01.001. Epub 2018 Jan 6.


We have developed a self-blotting TEM grid for use with a novel instrument for vitrifying samples for cryo-electron microscopy (cryoEM). Nanowires are grown on the copper surface of the grid using a simple chemical reaction and the opposite smooth side is used to adhere to a holey sample substrate support, for example carbon or gold. When small volumes of sample are applied to the nanowire grids the wires effectively act as blotting paper to rapidly wick away the liquid, leaving behind a thin film. In this technical note, we present a detailed description of how we make these grids using a variety of substrates fenestrated with either lacey or regularly spaced holes. We explain how we characterize the quality of the grids and we describe their behavior under a variety of conditions.

Keywords: Nanowire grids; Spotiton; TEM grids; cryoEM vitrification.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Capillary Action
  • Carbon / chemistry
  • Copper
  • Cryoelectron Microscopy / instrumentation*
  • Gold / chemistry
  • Nanowires / chemistry*
  • Specimen Handling
  • Vitrification*


  • Carbon
  • Gold
  • Copper