New vibes in the spectroscopy lab

The new microscopes enable researchers to take chemical images of cells in which unique chemical bonds represent the contrasts in the images. Nofima has acquired new microscopes that enable researchers to measure molecular vibrations with a very high spacial resolution. This means that they can measure spectra of different components within a single cell.

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Portrettbilde av Nils Kristian Afseth
Nils Kristian Afseth

Senior Scientist
Phone: +47 958 40 641
nils.kristian.afseth@nofima.no

The new microscopes enable researchers to take chemical images of cells in which unique chemical bonds represent the contrasts in the images.
The new microscopes enable researchers to take chemical images of cells in which unique chemical bonds represent the contrasts in the images.

Nofima has acquired new microscopes that enable researchers to measure molecular vibrations with a very high spacial resolution. This means that they can measure spectra of different components within a single cell.

The new infra red (IR) and Raman microscopes enable researchers to take chemical images of cells in which unique chemical bonds represent the contrasts in the images. This is unlike traditional microscopy where one often uses different dyeing techniques so as to be able to see the difference between chemical components.

The researchers who work on computer analyses and spectroscopy don’t often tear themselves away from the lab. Nils Kristian Afseth, an otherwise unassuming researcher, made an exception to give us an insight into spectroscopy research and the world of the new instruments.

“Traditionally we use spectroscopy in two different ways: to get a quick chemical characterisation of the food and its ingredients and to obtain a better chemical understanding of individual ingredients and the interaction between them in the complex matrix that the food represents. It is these two concepts we are now transferring to the measurement of cells, both individually and in groups,” says Nils Kristian Afseth.

A complete lab

The infra red (IR) and Raman spectroscopy techniques complement each other in various ways, in terms of both what types of tests can be measured and the chemical information that can be extracted. Given optimum conditions, it is easier to achieve IR spectra of high quality, but Raman makes it easier to measure in aqueous systems, for example.

“With its new spectroscopy lab, Nofima now has a well equipped spectroscopy platform, in both national and international contexts. Together with Nofima’s broadly based expertise in food and our expertise in computer analysis, we now have a quite unique platform. We have noticed that other scientific fields, from geology and chemistry to medicine and pharmaceutics, have been acquiring similar equipment in recent years. This can lead to the exchange of information and some exciting partnership projects,” says Nils Kristian Afseth.

What can it do?

Spectroscopy can be used to understand many processes in food. For example, the researchers have recently been using spectroscopic tools for the rapid characterisation of liver cells that have been fed with various kinds of fatty acids. This is done to increase our understanding of the fat metabolism in cells and can be used to develop a better fat composition in the food we eat.

IR has been extensively used for characterising muscle tissue and its protein structure. Work in this field will continue using the new instruments. The researchers are also investigating how different types of salts change the protein and water structure in meat. They also want to go further into the characterisation of the role of connective tissue as tenderness marker, the composition of fat, pigmentation in fish and the protein structure of grain.

“The new instruments give us completely new opportunities to put together information about chemical structure and composition, at both macro and micro level. That could be very exciting,” says Nils Kristian Afseth.

Raw materials and process optimisation  

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