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Philos Trans A Math Phys Eng Sci. 2003 Dec 15;361(1813):2771-87.

Recent advances in electron imaging, image interpretation and applications: environmental scanning electron microscopy.

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  • 1Polymers & Colloids Group, Department of Physics, Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0HE, UK.


One of the latest developments in electron microscopy is the environmental scanning electron microscope (ESEM), which enables soft, moist and/or electrically insulating materials to be viewed without pre-treatment, unlike conventional scanning electron microscopy, in which specimens must be solid, dry and usually electrically conductive. Such an advance has significant implications for studies of the 'native' surfaces of specimens including rocks and minerals, polymers, biological tissues and cells, food and pharmaceutical products, precious artefacts and forensic material, for example. Previous types of electron microscopes made scientists think carefully about the physics of electron-beam interactions with specimens and, hence, the interpretation of images. We now face additional factors influencing the emission and detection of electron signals, unique to the imaging of specimens in the partial vacuum of an ESEM. Just as importantly, we must consider the thermodynamic and kinetic stability of specimens, as appropriate, and explore the possibilities for new applications, particularly those of a dynamic nature. This paper briefly describes some of the issues involved and reviews the current state of understanding.

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