microtome A machine used to cut thin sections (3–5 μm thick) of plant or animal tissue for microscopical observation. There are various designs of microtome, each basically consisting of a steel knife, a block for supporting the specimen, and a device for moving the specimen towards the knife. The specimen is usually supported by being embedded in wax; if a freezing microtome is used, the specimen is frozen. An ultramicrotome is used to cut much thinner sections (20–100 nm thick) for electron microscopy. The biological material is embedded in plastic or resin, sectioned with a glass or diamond knife, and the cut sections are allowed to float on the surface of water in an adjacent water bath.
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