Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM)

Pollen Surface Morphology, Apreo S

Scanning Electron Microscopy uses a focused electron beam to scan a solid sample from the millimeter to the nanometer range. Secondary electrons are generated in the sample and collected to create a map of the secondary emissions. Since the intensity of secondary emission is dependent on local morphology, the area map is a magnified image of the sample. Spatial resolution smaller than 1 nanometer is possible for our FE-SEM instruments. Backscattered electrons (BSE) and characteristic X-rays are also generated by the scanning beam and many instruments employ these signals for compositional analysis of the sample.

Typical Applications:

  • Secondary electron image for surface morphology
  • Back-scattered imaging to observe elemental contrast
  • Environmental scanning electron microscope mode - Allows for in-situ heating and cooling experiments in the microscope

Sample Requirements:

Sample requirements vary with instrument and analysis desired. Please ask the technical staff about the requirements for your project.

Related Techniques:

Energy Dispersive analysis (EDS)
Electron Backscattered Diffractometry (EBSD)


MCL maintains three SEMs. For some of the microscopes beam deceleration or low vacuum mode can be used to study uncoated insulating and life science specimens. If you need help determining which instrument will best suit your needs please speak with a technical staff member.