Scanning Electron Microscope

The first Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) debuted in the 1940s but the first commercial instruments were produced in the 1960s.

The SEM is a type of electron microscope capable of producing highresolution images of a sample surface. Due to the manner in which the image is created, SEM images have a characteristic three-dimensional appearance and are useful forjudging the surface structure of the sample. This scanning electron microscope has a magnification range from15x to 200, 000x and a resolution of 5 nanometers.

The SEM has the ability to image large areas of the specimen that includes thin films and bulky materials as well. In general, SEM images are much easier to interpret than TEM images. --


The Bugscope project is an educational outreach program for K-12 classrooms. The project provides a resource to classrooms so that they may remotely operate a scanning electron microscope to image "bugs" or "creatures" at high magnification. The microscope is remotely controlled in real time from a classroom computer over the Internet using a Web browser. BugScope provides a state-of-the-art microscope resource for teachers that can be readily integrated into classroom activities. Students can peek at extreme close-up views of the insect world via their school computer labs and for free.

The BugScope project was developed by the BugScope Project Team and the Imaging Technology Group at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The scanning electron microscope costs about half a million dollars, and its main function is for research done at the university by graduate and postdoctoral students as well as industry.

The team at the institute sets up preset views of the "creatures" provided by the school. The classroom teacher and students, from a computer station at their own school, can operate the microscope for other views. Students watch the images projected on a screen in the front of the computer lab, and can use their own computer stations to ask questions from the scientists at the center in Urbana.

The classroom has ownership of the project. The students design their own experiments and provide their own bugs to be imaged in the microscope. Bugscope provides resources pages with helpful links related to electron microscopy and bugs. The BugScope Web site: http://bugscope.

Bugscope also offers a virtual microscope activity. They recently developed a Virtual Microscope that allows for Bugscope-type viewing (without an Internet connection) from precaptured high-resolution image datasets. They have built both a Virtual Scanning Electron Microscope (Virtual SEM or VSEM) and a Virtual Light Microscope (VLM). Go to their Web site and download the Virtual Microscope and give it a try for free! --

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