A2 Review article, Literature review, Systematic review
Bio-imaging with the helium-ion microscope : a review (2021)

Schmidt, M., Byrne, J. M., & Maasilta, I. J. (2021). Bio-imaging with the helium-ion microscope : a review. Beilstein Journal of Nanotechnology, 12, 1-23. https://doi.org/10.3762/bjnano.12.1

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editorsSchmidt, Matthias; Byrne, James M.; Maasilta, Ilari J.

Journal or seriesBeilstein Journal of Nanotechnology


Publication year2021


Pages range1-23

PublisherBeilstein-Institut zur Förderung der Chemischen Wissenschaften

Publication countryGermany

Publication languageEnglish


Publication open accessOpenly available

Publication channel open accessOpen Access channel

Publication is parallel published (JYX)https://jyx.jyu.fi/handle/123456789/73884


Scanning helium-ion microscopy (HIM) is an imaging technique with sub-nanometre resolution and is a powerful tool to resolve some of the tiniest structures in biology. In many aspects, the HIM resembles a field-emission scanning electron microscope (FE-SEM), but the use of helium ions rather than electrons provides several advantages, including higher surface sensitivity, larger depth of field, and a straightforward charge-compensating electron flood gun, which enables imaging of non-conductive samples, rendering HIM a promising high-resolution imaging technique for biological samples. Starting with studies focused on medical research, the last decade has seen some particularly spectacular high-resolution images in studies focused on plants, microbiology, virology, and geomicrobiology. However, HIM is not just an imaging technique. The ability to use the instrument for milling biological objects as small as viruses offers unique opportunities which are not possible with more conventional focused ion beams, such as gallium. Several pioneering technical developments, such as methods to couple secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) or ionoluminescence with the HIM, also offer the possibility for new and exciting research on biological materials. In this review, we present a comprehensive overview of almost all currently published literature which has demonstrated the application of HIM for imaging of biological specimens. We also discuss some technical features of this unique type of instrument and highlight some of the new advances which will likely become more widely used in the years to come.

Keywordsmicroscopyimagingcell biologymicrobiologyvirology

Free keywordsBio-imaging; Flood gun; Helium-ion microscopy; High resolution; HIM; HIM-SIMS; Ionofluorescense

Contributing organizations

Ministry reportingYes

Reporting Year2021

JUFO rating1

Last updated on 2024-03-04 at 20:05