Scanning Electron Microscopy

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scanning electron microscope (SEM) scans the surface of a sample with a focused electron beam to produce an image. This beam of electrons interacts with atoms in a material, revealing information about the topography of the surface and composition of the material.  Samples are observed in a high vacuum in conventional SEM, or in a low vacuum (or wet conditions) in environmental SEM. Samples of a material can also be observed at a wide range of cryogenic or elevated temperatures with specialised instruments.

Focused ion beam (FIB) is a technique used for site specific analysis, deposition and removal of materials. Whereas the SEM uses a focused electron beam to image a material, a FIB uses a focused ion beam instead.

ICAM equipment includes:

  • TESCAN MIRA3 GMU VP Analytical FESEM at The University of Manchester. A high performance SEM system which features a high brightness Schottky emitter for achieving high resolution and low-noise imaging.
  • Zeiss EVO60 Extended Pressure SEM at the University of Cambridge. Can be operated in variable pressure and extended pressure modes in addition to high vacuum mode. This allows non-conducting and/or wet samples to be imaged without coating.
  • Zeiss EVO HD15 at the University of Cambridge. High magnification imaging of cryo-preserved tissue in full vacuum conditions.
  • FEI Verios 460 at the University of Cambridge. State-of-the-art, ultra-high resolution scanning electron microscope (SEM) for biological and material samples.
  • FEI Quanta FEG 450 ESEM at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Microscope with 2 nm ultimate resolution. Works well in both Hi-Vac mode (normal SEM) and Wet mode (as an ESEM).


Advanced materials research covers a spectrum of academic fields and disciplines. The scientific publications authored by our researchers showcase some of the ground-breaking work taking place across the ICAM partnership.

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