Electron microscopes are great and all, but the problem is that you can’t use them to get up close and personal inside a living cell without killing it. That might change, however, as scientists are working to use quantum mechanics to overcome this obstacle.

Being able to see inside a living cell could potentially reveal scores of mysteries when it comes to offering hard evidence on how living organisms function on an atomic level. A team of researchers at MIT are working with an idea that calls for the development of a non-invasive electron microscope that can remotely peek into cells using quantum mechanical measurement.

Traditional electron microscopes use a beam of electrons to look into cells, but the radiation emitted generally kills those specimens (it’s like a 10-megaton H-bomb for single cells).

The core of this proposed microscope consists of an electron moving back and forth between two rings, one on top of the other. When a cell passes between the rings, the microscope scans the cell one pixel at a time, as the electron becomes momentarily trapped in place at each spot where matter is present. The microscope is able to record this activity and construct an image of the cell.

Now, who wants to try it first? [via MIT News]