Preventing condensation in cryo-microscope


09 March 2023
The plant room where the dehumidifiers are installed is situated above the laboratories on a floating plant room floor to prevent vibration

Indoor climate solutions specialist Munters continues to support crucial research at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology (MRC LMB) in Cambridge.

The MRC LMB is a world-class laboratory that is tackling major problems in human health and disease. Over the years, it has attracted 12 nobel prizes, as well as dozens of scientific awards and honours in molecular biology.

The laboratory building in Cambridge

The MRC LMB contains several cryo-laboratories, along with a world leading, electron cryo-microscope - a multi-million pound investment that is used for carrying out critical research into human health and disease. 

For more than a decade, Munters has supplied and maintained dehumidifiers that are essential for the effective operation of this microscope. 

Condensation control

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The electron cryo-microscope sees research specimens submerged into liquid ethane at -193°C. This process freezes them so quickly that it creates a glass, or water glass, which enhances the clarity of the molecules within the specimens. 

“In this instance, water is both the friend and the enemy” says Dr Chris Russo, MRC LMB group leader. “When submerging research samples into the ethane at liquid nitrogen temperatures, it is absolutely critical that other moisture is minimised, otherwise the sample could be ruined.” 

It is for this reason that dehumidification is so crucial. “Without dehumidification, even the slightest amount of excess moisture will cause ice to build on the specimens. If the resolution is poor, we won’t get the image and won’t solve what we need to,” said Dr Russo.

The microscope itself is also susceptible to moisture damage. Strong electrodes and iron magnets can corrode and decay if relative humidity is not effectively controlled within the cryo-laboratories. 


Munters has supplied several ML plus temperature and humidity control systems to maintain a temperature of 20°C at 20% relative humidity. Unusually, the plant room where the dehumidifiers are installed is situated above the laboratories on a floating plant room floor to prevent vibration. The temperature and humidity control systems were uniquely designed so that they could be broken down into modules, enabling them to fit through small gaps during installation. 

Dr Stephen Holmes, head of estates and capital projects at the MRC LMB, said: “Munters really understands our needs. The dehumidifiers work extremely well and are very robust. For over 10 years, our relationship has continued to grow. We have had great continuity from the service team.”