Thanks to a $287,234 grant from the National ScienceFoundation, Millersville University acquired a Scanning Electron Microscope. According to Dr. Maria Schiza, associate professor of chemistry, very few small companies or universities have easy access to electron microscopy, which makes this 12-foot by 6-foot microscope unique for the area.
“The primary goal for writing the NSF grant to acquire this type of microscope was to allow MU students, MU faculty and the surrounding community to use this microscope for research and teaching,” says Schiza.
A Scanning Electron Microscope allows the user to image objects or features of a sample in the nanoscale, down to a 3-5 nanometers resolution. In comparison, an optical/light microscope (one that might be used in a high school classroom) can only get around 200 nm resolution for an image. An SEM is designed for observing the surface structure of a sample. The microscope’s resolution at Millersville is 3.0 nm at a magnification of 100,000x. If someone needs more detail or higher magnification than a light microscope, then they would need to use an SEM. When the electron beam hits the sample, it can generate X-rays. The energy from these X-rays can be detected and give information about the sample’s elemental composition. Thus, the SEM can be used to investigate the properties of a sample from different science disciplines like biology, chemistry, physics, earth sciences, applied engineering, manufacturing, materials science, nanotechnology and more.
The SEM is a multi-user microscope and will be used by different departments/disciplines at Millersville for teaching purposes and research. The research projects can span from investigating the features of newly synthesized nanomaterials to investigating biological samples or geological samples. Additionally, the SEM offers low environmental and high vacuum operation modes, which allow for samples that are non-conductive to be imaged without extra preparation. Also, since the microscope can detect X-rays, it can perform elemental analysis of a sample.
“Student learning and faculty professional development is a big focus for us. Students and faculty will be able to get training and use the microscope for their research projects with the assistance of the SEM technician,” says Schiza.
For more information about the microscope and the lab, visit MU Microscope Facility.