Ulf Steffens and Sascha Teitscheid

A Journey into the Microcosm

Already as children the forests and meadows fascinated us. We enjoyed looking very closely at everything and discovering all the hidden secrets within. Always armed with a magnifying glass, we looked at the leaves or behind the bark. That was our first glimpse into a mysterious microcosm, invisible to the naked eye. We still feel this childhood fascination every time we immerse ourselves in this hidden world now armed with state-of-the-art technology!

We changed the magnifying glass for a Field Emission Scanning Electron Microscope (FE-SEM). With it we study samples from the entire Crop Science Division and even have the opportunity to work with Universities and other institutions to help them with their research. With FE-SEM we have access to a much more detailed view of this impressive and sometimes bizarre world of plants, fungi and insects.

Using light microscopy we can obtain insights into the microcosm; we are able to magnify structures up to about 1000 times. However, one disadvantage of light microscopy is the shallow depth of field, which causes structures to be sharply focused only in a very small area. As a result some parts of the object closer or farther from the focus section disappear or are blurred. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM), scans the surfaces of an object with a finely focused electron beam, makes a grayscale image in very high magnification (up to more than 100,000 times) possible and expands the sharp area making it larger than what you would obtain with a light microscope.

Ulf Steffens and Sascha Teitscheid
Ulf Steffens and Sascha Teitscheid
Ulf Steffens and Sascha Teitscheid, FE-Scanning Elektron Microscope User
Scanning objects with different techniques
Scanning objects with different techniques
Example: Yellow Rust (Puccinia striiformis)

For over 17 years we have been working with SEM at the Crop Science Division of Bayer, and in 2014 our team has been reinforced with Thorsten Manroth. During all this time, technology evolved significantly and so did the methodology. Yet even today, we sometimes face new and difficult challenges with different samples we have to observe and scan. It pays off to meet those challenges with patience and perseverance, because the unique and fascinating images resulting from our labor are in the end a perfect reward to our efforts!

Getting ready and the technology

Take a quick look at the path from the sample to the optimal SEM image. Discover how we use extremely low temperatures (advanced cryogenics) to scan sensitive samples without the hassle and artefact-prone chemical fixation which sometimes can destroy the sample.

Exploring the microcosm

Enjoy some of the best images we have taken for our colleagues at Crop Science recently. This is only a small example of our image-gallery.

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Dominique Steiger
June 14, 2018 - 01:34 PM

Looking at these pictures which show the result of millions years of evolution and co-evolution with such level of details is just fascinating. Well done. We want more.

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Arindam Mukherjee
June 14, 2018 - 03:57 AM

These pictures are really exciting!!

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