Focused ion beam (FIB) sample preparation in combination with subsequent transmission electron microscopy (TEM) analysis are powerful tools for nanometre-scale examination of the cell-mineral interface in bio-geological samples. In this study, we used FIB-TEM to investigate the interaction between a cyanobacterium (Hassallia byssoidea) and a common sheet silicate mineral (biotite) following a laboratory-based bioweathering, incubation experiment. We discuss the FIB preparation of cross-sections of the cell mineral interface for TEM investigation. We also establish an electron fluence threshold in biotite for the transition from scanning (S)TEM electron beam induced contamination build up on the surface of biotite thin sections to mass loss, or hole-drilling within the sections. Working below this threshold fluence nanometre-scale structural and elemental information has been obtained from biotite directly underneath cyanobacterial cells incubated on the biotite for three months. No physical alteration of the biotite was detected by TEM imaging and diffraction with little or no elemental alteration detected by STEM energy dispersive X-ray (EDX) elemental line scanning nor by energy filtered TEM (EF-TEM) jump ratio elemental mapping. As such we present evidence that the cyanobacterial strain of Hassallia byssoidea did not cause any measurable alteration of biotite, within the resolution limits of the analysis techniques used, after three months of incubation on its surface.
- FIB; TEM; Cyanobacteria; Weathering; Cell-mineral interface; Biotite