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Scanning electron microscope

A scanning electron microscope (SEM) is a type of electron microscope that produces images of a sample by scanning the surface with a focused beam of electrons. The electrons interact with atoms in the sample, producing various signals that contain information about the surface topography and composition of the sample. The electron beam is scanned in a raster scan pattern, and the position of the beam is combined with the intensity of the detected signal to produce an image. In the most common SEM mode, secondary electrons emitted by atoms excited by the electron beam are detected using an Everhart-Thornley detector. The number of secondary electrons that can be detected, and thus the signal intensity, depends, among other things, on specimen topography. SEM can achieve resolution better than 1 nanometer. Specimens are observed in high vacuum in conventional SEM, or in low vacuum or wet conditions in variable pressure or environmental SEM, and at a wide range of cryogenic or elevated temperatures with specialized instruments. An account of the early history of SEM has been presented by McMullan. Although Max Knoll produced a photo with a 50 mm object-field-width showing channeling contrast by the use of an electron beam scanner, it was Manfred von Ardenne who in 1937 invented a true microscope with high magnification by scanning a very small raster with a demagnified and finely focused electron beam. Ardenne applied the scanning principle not only to achieve magnification but also to purposefully eliminate the chromatic aberration otherwise inherent in the electron microscope. He further discussed the various detection modes, possibilities and theory of SEM, together with the construction of the first high magnification SEM. Further work was reported by Zworykin's group, followed by the Cambridge groups in the 1950s and early 1960s headed by Charles Oatley, all of which finally led to the marketing of the first commercial instrument by Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company as the 'Stereoscan' in 1965, which was delivered to DuPont. The signals used by a scanning electron microscope to produce an image result from interactions of the electron beam with atoms at various depths within the sample. Various types of signals are produced including secondary electrons (SE), reflected or back-scattered electrons (BSE), characteristic X-rays and light (cathodoluminescence) (CL), absorbed current (specimen current) and transmitted electrons. Secondary electron detectors are standard equipment in all SEMs, but it is rare for a single machine to have detectors for all other possible signals. In secondary electron imaging (SEI), the secondary electrons are emitted from very close to the specimen surface. Consequently, SEI can produce very high-resolution images of a sample surface, revealing details less than 1 nm in size. Back-scattered electrons (BSE) are beam electrons that are reflected from the sample by elastic scattering. They emerge from deeper locations within the specimen and, consequently, the resolution of BSE images is less than SE images. However, BSE are often used in analytical SEM, along with the spectra made from the characteristic X-rays, because the intensity of the BSE signal is strongly related to the atomic number (Z) of the specimen. BSE images can provide information about the distribution, but not the identity, of different elements in the sample. In samples predominantly composed of light elements, such as biological specimens, BSE imaging can image colloidal gold immuno-labels of 5 or 10 nm diameter, which would otherwise be difficult or impossible to detect in secondary electron images. Characteristic X-rays are emitted when the electron beam removes an inner shell electron from the sample, causing a higher-energy electron to fill the shell and release energy. The energy or wavelength of these characteristic X-rays can be measured by Energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy or Wavelength-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy and used to identify and measure the abundance of elements in the sample and map their distribution. Due to the very narrow electron beam, SEM micrographs have a large depth of field yielding a characteristic three-dimensional appearance useful for understanding the surface structure of a sample. This is exemplified by the micrograph of pollen shown above. A wide range of magnifications is possible, from about 10 times (about equivalent to that of a powerful hand-lens) to more than 500,000 times, about 250 times the magnification limit of the best light microscopes.

[ "Chemical engineering", "Analytical chemistry", "Composite material", "Inorganic chemistry", "Quantum mechanics", "EDS Detector", "Halamphora", "Lithium metatungstate", "MgCO3.3H2O", "mercury intrusion porosimetry" ]
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