Most multicellular organisms can only survive under atmospheric pressure. The reduced pressure of a high vacuum usually leads to rapid dehydration and death. Yasuharu Takaku et al. found that exposure to electron beams or plasma modified the surface of some multicellular organisms and allowed them to survive in the high vacuum environment (10-5-10-7 Pa) such as the observation chamber of a scanning electron microscope (SEM). The authors revealed that when animals covered by extracellular substances (ECS) were subjected to electron bombardment or plasma irradiation, they immediately formed a 50-100 nm protective layer over their surface caused by polymerization. They named this thin surface barriers as a“nano suit”,and found that an artificial coating of substance like non-toxic compound polysorbitan monolaurate (Tween-20) allowed organisms without a natural ECS coating to survive under SEM exposure. The thin polymer nano-suit can render multicellular organisms strongly tolerant to high vacuum by acting as a flexible barrier to the passage of gases and liquids, and allow live specimens to be observed using a high resolution SEM.
JST CREST Research Area “Establishment of innovative manufacturing technology based on nanoscience”,
Research Theme : “Novel Engineering of Hierarchically Structured Biomimetic Surfaces”
Published in PNAS
Yasuharu Takaku, Hiroshi Suzuki, Isao Ohta, Daisuke Ishii, Yoshinori Muranaka, Masatsugu Shimomura and Takahiko Hariyama
A thin polymer membrane, nano-suit, enhancing survival across the continuum between air and high vacuum 2013
Professor, Biology, Hamamatsu University School of Medicine
Green Innovation Group, Department of Innovation Research, Japan Science and Technology Agency,