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SUMMARY

When biological specimens are irradiated by the electron beam in the electron microscope, the specimen structure is damaged as a result of molecular excitation, ionization, and subsequent chemical reactions. The radiation damage that occurs in the normal process of electron microscopy is known to present severe limitations for imaging high resolution detail in biological specimens. The question of radiation damage at low temperatures has therefore been investigated with the view in mind of reducing somewhat the rate at which damage occurs. The radiation damage protection found for small molecule (anhydrous) organic compounds is generally rather limited or even non-existent. However, large molecule, hydrated materials show as much as a 10-fold reduction at low temperature in the rate at which radiation damage occurs, relative to the damage rate at room temperature. In the case of hydrated specimens, therefore, low temperature electron microscopy offers an important advantage as part of the overall effort required in obtaining high resolution images of complex biological structures.