Scanning Electron Microscopes (SEM)

Imaging in an SEM requires an energised beam of electrons directed at a piece of material so that they interact with a thin surface layer. The scanning electron microscopes in this facility are used to investigate surface morphology, crystalline properties (type and orientation) and composition in solid materials by deflecting a beam of electrons over an area of sample material up to a few 1000's of microns square. This interaction produces different types of emissions, some of which are captured by detectors and converted into images.

Analytical information can also be sampled using an Energy Dispersive X-ray (EDX) detector, and crystal orientation mapping (EBSD). SEMs are capable of imaging at a significantly higher resolution than light microscopes, however they do overlap at low magnifications. The spatial resolution limit of a standard Schotkey field emission microscope is ~1-2nm.

SEM imaging is a major analysis method in a range of scientific fields, in both physical and biological sciences.

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