In situ cryo-FIB/SEM Specimen Preparation Using the Waffle Method

Oleg Klykov, Daija Bobe, Mohammadreza Paraan, Jake D. Johnston, Clinton S. Potter, Bridget Carragher, Mykhailo Kopylov, Alex J. Noble

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Cryo-focused ion beam (FIB) milling of vitrified specimens is emerging as a powerful method for in situ specimen preparation. It allows for the preservation of native and near-native conditions in cells, and can reveal the molecular structure of protein complexes when combined with cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET) and sub-tomogram averaging. Cryo-FIB milling is often performed on plunge-frozen specimens of limited thickness. However, this approach may have several disadvantages, including low throughput for cells that are small, or at low concentration, or poorly distributed across accessible areas of the grid, as well as for samples that may adopt a preferred orientation. Here, we present a detailed description of the “Waffle Method” protocol for vitrifying thick specimens followed by a semi-automated milling procedure using the Thermo Fisher Scientific (TFS) Aquilos 2 cryo-FIB/scanning electron microscope (SEM) instrument and AutoTEM Cryo software to produce cryo-lamellae. With this protocol, cryo-lamellae may be generated from specimens, such as microsporidia spores, yeast, bacteria, and mammalian cells, as well as purified proteins and protein complexes. An experienced lab can perform the entire protocol presented here within an 8-hour working day, resulting in two to three cryo-lamellae with target thicknesses of 100–200 nm and dimensions of approximately 12 μm width and 15–20 μm length. For cryo-FIB/SEMs with particularly low-contamination chambers, the protocol can be extended to overnight milling, resulting in up to 16 cryo-lamellae in 24 h.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere4544
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 5 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • AutoTEM Cryo
  • HPF
  • In situ
  • Sample preparation
  • Waffle Method
  • cryo-ET

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Neuroscience
  • Plant Science


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