SUU Updates Scanning Electron Microscope

Published: March 24, 2022 | Author: Kaylee Condie | Read Time: 2 minutes

New scanning electron microscopeIt’s an exciting time for science majors, in particular chemists and biologists. Southern Utah University has replaced the Scanning Electron Microscope (S.E.M.) with the Phenom ProX G6 Desktop S.E.M. along with the LUXOR Gold Sputter Coater. In essence, SUU was able to exchange an outdated microscope for one that looks like an average computer. But what exactly is an S.E.M. used for?

“The main purpose of the S.E.M is to allow samples to be examined in much greater detail than can be done with a normal light microscope,” said Dr. Chris Monson, associate professor of chemistry. “It also allows for the identification of elements in the samples, which can be very valuable for nanoparticle research and geology research.”

An S.E.M. is essentially a powerful microscope. It takes close-up pictures of a specimen. What makes the new microscope so special is it comes with an Electron Dispersive Spectroscopy (E.D.S.) which tells the operator what elements a specimen is made of. It does this by knocking electrons off the specimen the handler is examining. The way the element reacts allows it to be identified by the computer and even make detailed pictures.

The Gold Sputter Coater has its name for a reason - it coats the specimen in an exceedingly fine and incredibly thin layer of gold. The reason for this goes back to the S.E.M. and the pictures that it takes. With some elements, the electrons are attracted to the specimen rather than bounced away from it. This makes it hard to get the crystal clear pictures researchers are looking for. By coating these types of specimens in gold, it allows the sample to conduct better and produce a clearer picture.

The machine is used by students and professors of all three departments in the college of sciences. Geoscientists in the Geoscience Department look at mineral samples to see what elements it’s made up of, biologists in the Biology Department use it to look at ants, bacteria, or other small living organisms, and physicists and chemists in the Physical Science Department use it to look at minerals and nanoparticles.

“I'm doing research on different biological binding ligands for silver nanoparticles, and I am using the S.E.M to take pictures of the nanoparticles,” said Porter Wilkes, a sophomore majoring in biology. “We have been able to use the S.E.M to take pictures of our nanoparticles all the way to 280,000 x magnification and still get measurable data. The only way to be able to measure the actual size of our nanoparticles is by taking pictures using the S.E.M. I never used the old one, so I don't know how it would compare, but I've been pleased with the new S.E.M!”

The microscope is open for use to any SUU student who has the proper training. What are all you scientists waiting for? Go explore the world 100,000 times smaller than ours, and all of the other amazing resources our College of Science has to offer here at SUU.

Tags: College of Natural Sciences

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