Dave Knott writes: The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded on Wednesday to researchers who developed cryo-electron microscopy, which is described as a way to create detailed images of the molecules that drive life -- a technology that allows scientists to visualize molecular processes they had never previously seen. This is decisive for both the basic understanding of life's chemistry and for the development of pharmaceuticals. From the Nobel committee's press release: "Electron microscopes were long believed to only be suitable for imaging dead matter, because the powerful electron beam destroys biological material. But in 1990, Richard Henderson succeeded in using an electron microscope to generate a three-dimensional image of a protein at atomic resolution. This breakthrough proved the technology's potential. Joachim Frank made the technology generally applicable. Between 1975 and 1986 he developed an image processing method in which the electron microscope's fuzzy two-dimensional images are analyzed and merged to reveal a sharp three-dimensional structure. Jacques Dubochet added water to electron microscopy. Liquid water evaporates in the electron microscope's vacuum, which makes the biomolecules collapse. In the early 1980s, Dubochet succeeded in vitrifying water -- he cooled water so rapidly that it solidified in its liquid form around a biological sample, allowing the biomolecules to retain their natural shape even in a vacuum. Following these discoveries, the electron microscope's every nut and bolt have been optimized. The desired atomic resolution was reached in 2013, and researchers can now routinely produce three-dimensional structures of biomolecules."