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Title: Information or resolution: Which is required from an SEM to study bulk inorganic materials?: Evaluate SEMs’ practical performance

Significant technological advances in scanning electron microscopy (SEM) have been achieved over the past years. Different SEMs can have significant differences in functionality and performance. This work presents the perspectives on selecting an SEM for research on bulk inorganic materials. Understanding materials demands quantitative composition and orientation information, and informative and interpretable images that reveal subtle differences in chemistry, orientation/structure, topography, and electronic structure. The capability to yield informative and interpretable images with high signal-to-noise ratios and spatial resolutions is an overall result of the SEM system as a whole, from the electron optical column to the detection system. The electron optical column determines probe performance. The roles of the detection system are to capture, filter or discriminate, and convert signal electrons to imaging information. The capability to control practical operating parameters including electron probe size and current, acceleration voltage or landing voltage, working distance, detector selection, and signal filtration is inherently determined by the SEM itself. As a platform for various accessories, e.g. an energydispersive spectrometer and an electron backscatter diffraction detector, the properties of the electron optical column, specimen chamber, and stage greatly affect the performance of accessories. Ease-of-use and ease-of-maintenance are of practical importance. It is practicallymore » important to select appropriate test specimens, design suitable imaging conditions, and analyze the specimen chamber geometry and dimensions to assess the overall functionality and performance of an SEM. Finally, for an SEM that is controlled/operated with a computer, the stable software and user-friendly interface significantly affect the usability of the SEM.« less
  1. Ames Lab., Ames, IA (United States). Division of Materials Sciences and Engineering
Publication Date:
Report Number(s):
IS-J-9020; IS-J-9198
Journal ID: ISSN 0161-0457
Grant/Contract Number:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 38; Journal Issue: 6; Journal ID: ISSN 0161-0457
Research Org:
Ames Laboratory (AMES), Ames, IA (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Basic Energy Sciences (BES) (SC-22)
Country of Publication:
United States
36 MATERIALS SCIENCE; scanning electron microscopy (SEM); probe performance; detection performance
OSTI Identifier:
Alternate Identifier(s):
OSTI ID: 1347894