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How to look after your scanning electron microscope

What is SEM?

A scanning electron microscope (SEM) is a device for observing the surface of samples on a nanometric scale. It uses a beam of electrons to scan the surface and produce three-dimensional images.

The SEM is an indispensable tool for researchers, engineers and technicians working in fields such as biology, chemistry, physics, materials and medicine.

But like any complex piece of equipment, the SEM requires regular maintenance to ensure that it operates smoothly and reliably.

SEM maintenance tips

Here are a few tips on how to look after your SEM and prolong its life.

Clean the SEM chamber regularly

The SEM chamber is where the electron beam and samples are located. It must be kept clean and free from dust, grease or residue. To do this, you can use a soft cloth, isopropyl alcohol or acetone to wipe the walls and the sample holder. Take care not to touch the electron gun, column or detectors with the cloth. You can also use a low-power hoover to remove fine particles.

Check the SEM vacuum regularly

The SEM vacuum is essential to avoid undesirable interactions between electrons and air molecules. It must be maintained at a sufficiently low level to ensure image quality and beam stability.

To do this, you should regularly check the operation of the vacuum pumps and valves, as well as the pressure level in the chamber. If you notice a drop in vacuum or a leak, contact the technical department immediately.

Calibrate the SEM regularly

The SEM must be calibrated regularly to ensure the accuracy of measurements and analyses. To do this, you need to use standard samples that have known and reproducible properties. For example, you can use polystyrene beads, diffraction gratings or metal nanoparticles.

You need to check beam alignment, resolution, magnification, contrast, depth of field and elemental composition.

Get regular SEM training

SEM is a device that requires specific skills to use correctly and safely. That’s why it’s important to take regular training courses on the SEM, whether to learn the basics, improve your skills or keep up to date with new features and applications.

You can take online, face-to-face or customised training courses, depending on your needs and availability. You can also consult manuals, tutorials or specialist forums to help you solve your problems or improve your practices.

By following this advice, you can maintain your MEB efficiently and optimise its performance. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you need more information or personalised advice.

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