Field Trip: Scanning Electron Microscope

I met Rachel’s friend from college, Laura. Laura has the awesome job of being a researcher at MSU in their ICAL (Imaging and Chemical Analysis Laboratory). Of particular interest was Laura’s job of operating the scanning electron microscope!

So of course I asked if we could have a tour! Not only did we get a tour, Laura even let me operate the machine! Oh yes folks, I got to operate a scanning electron microscope!

The first we used was the Zeiss SUPRA 55VP Field Emission Scanning Electron Microscope providing ultra high-resolution at low kV with resolutions of 1.7nm1 at 1.0kV2. Laura had a spider sample prepared and so we decided to use that. Here are some of the pictures I took:

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andrews awesome image

andrews awesome image 3

We also got to use the JEOL JSM-6100 Scanning Electron Microscope, which is quite a bit older, but just as cool.

It works a bit different from the FM-SEM, using Secondary Electron Imaging (SEI) and Backscattered Electron Imaging (BEI). Rachel has a stainless steel ring she likes to wear, so we through that in and took a look at it under the scope:

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I was pretty much like a kid in a candy store. I had an awesome time and got to add a new item to my Christmas list for next year.


  1. 1.7 x 10-9

  2. for reference, a human hair is about (1.7 x 10-5 m in width