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Imaging Silica (SiO2) deposition in fresh Sorghum leaves



This work was done In collaboration with Oshry Markovich, PhD student under the supervision of Dr. Rivka Elbaum, The Smith Institute of Plant Sciences and Genetics in Agriculture, The Hebrew University, Israel



Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor), an important staple crop in hot and dry regions, accumulates silica in its roots and shoots. Silicic acid is absorbed from the ground through the roots, and polymerizes into solid silica. Typical silica depositions are at the root endodermis, and in the leaves, in dumbbell like silica cells. Fresh Sorghum leaves and roots were imaged without any sample processing. Elemental mapping showed localization of silicon to the root endodermis and the leaf dumbbell-shaped cells.



  1.  Image fresh sorghum leaves in their natural conditions.
  2. Perform spatial localization and quantification of Silica (SiO2) deposition in Sorghum leaves.
  3. Compare between wild type sorghum and a mutant with limited ability to absorb silicon.



  • Image fresh leaves with no processing or staining
  • Perform elemental analysis and mapping on fresh sample.


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Fig1: Natural sorghum leaf mounted on a slide imaged for orientation and for the target area selection (ROI).


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Fig2:  The leaves were imaged in ambient condition in their natural state using airSEM microscope as is - without coatings or any sample preparation, no stains were added


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Fig3: EDX map


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Fig4: airSEM can be used to directly image cross sections of fresh leaves


airSEM advantage:

  1. The —airSEM™  enables working with samples that are not compatible with vacuum – the fresh leaves were imaged without any processing.
  2. Silicon mapping showed specific localization to defined morphological structures.
  3. Silicon quantification showed significant difference in silicon content between wilt type and knockout plants.


Link to paper: