Common Scanning Electron Microscope Uses

Scanning electron microscopes (SEMs) are powerful tools that can be used in a wide range of applications across many industries, from automotive to medical. With their impressive magnification power, SEMs provide insight into a world we can’t see with the naked eye. How are these powerful machines making an impact in our world? What are some of the most common scanning electron microscope uses? Let’s explore.

What is a Scanning Electron Microscope Used For?

At the most basic level, a SEM is used to observe characteristics of a sample that otherwise couldn’t be seen. While the level of magnification depends on the exact SEM model being used, they range from providing 50,000x – 300,000x magnification, allowing you to see your sample in exquisite detail.

A scanning electron microscope operates by focusing a beam of electrons on a sample. The electrons strike and interact with the sample. The machine measures specimen interactions such as secondary elections, backscattered electrons, and x-rays. All of these provide the machine with information that can be converted into detailed images.

The depth of field, resolution, and versatility of SEMs surpass that of traditional optical microscopes, making them essential for in-depth analysis in numerous scientific fields. The technology behind SEMs allows for a detailed examination of surface topographies and compositions, providing invaluable data that drives innovation and quality control.

Real-World Scanning Electron Microscope Uses

So what is a scanning electron microscope used for? In reality, there is no limit to the capabilities of a scanning electron microscope. It can be used in any industry where experts have a need for an increased level of magnification. However, there are some common industries where we see experts consistently getting use out of their SEMs. These industries include:

  • Material Sciences: SEMs offer insight into the microstructure of materials, aiding in the development of new materials with enhanced properties. They are instrumental in research, quality control, and failure analysis, particularly for metallurgical analysis, superconductors, and nanotechnology research, contributing significantly to advancements in this field.
  • Automotive Industry: In automotive manufacturing and research, SEMs are invaluable for inspecting parts, materials, and coatings. They help in identifying defects, understanding wear and tear, and ensuring the durability of automotive components. This microscopic analysis is crucial for maintaining high standards in automotive safety and performance.
  • Biosciences and Medical Research: In biosciences, SEMs provide a window into the cellular world, aiding in the study of biological structures and their interactions. This has implications in disease research, drug development, and the design of medical implants and devices.
  • Semiconductor Inspection: The semiconductor industry relies heavily on SEMs for the inspection of circuits and chips. As devices become increasingly miniaturized, the precision of SEMs is indispensable for identifying defects and ensuring the functionality of semiconductor products.
  • Forensic Investigations and Failure Analysis: SEMs play a crucial role in forensic science, aiding in the analysis of trace evidence such as fibers, gunshot residue, and paint chips. In failure analysis, they help in identifying the root causes of material or component failures, which is vital for preventing future incidents.

SEMs in Action at the Colorado School of Mines

There are countless real-world scanning electron microscope uses that help to advance our understanding of the world around us. SEMTech Solutions helped the Colorado School of Mines find the right SEM for their applications — an AMRAY 3300 Field Emission Microscope. The tool is upgraded with SEMView8000, advancing its capabilities beyond what it would typically be capable of.

“For the fracture images we perform, the SEMView8000 does a great job of highlighting the usefulness of 8K images,” says Dr. Owen, Hildreth, Ph.D. “Instead of stitching together a bunch of images to get an idea of the fracture mechanisms, locations, and paths, we can take one 8K image and zoom into regions of interest in the image. Then we take higher magnification images of those specific regions. It is much faster to zoom into a lot of locations in an 8k image than on a SEM. Better throughput on our end and nice images to boot.”

Get Better Results from Your SEM

No matter your industry or scanning electron microscope uses, you need a SEM that performs its best at all times. Are you getting the most out of your machine? SEMTech Solutions’ experts can help you find the right SEM or upgrade your existing machine with SEMView8000.

SEMView8000 is a SEM upgrade that provides better image quality, increased ease of use, and additional security for your SEM. Start getting more from your SEM — work with the experts at SEMTech Solutions.

Are you ready to expand your capabilities? Let’s talk. Reach out to the SEMTech Solutions team today to explore your SEM applications.