Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Scanning Electron Microscope SEM - Callixylon

Recently, I found a a very small (7 mm x 3 mm) piece of coalified Callixylon wood from the Upper Devonian Period.  After searching a large pile of New Albany Shale in Clark County Indiana for a while, it was all I discovered.  A little disappointed, I left the site but later studied the specimen with an optical microscope.  To my surprise, it appeared the wood still had its ray lines intact.

After reading a section of Chapter 12 Progymnosperms in the book Paleobotany: The Biology and Evolution of Fossil Plants by Thomas Taylor, Edith Taylor and Michael Krings, I determined Callixylon wood rays are constructed of ray tracheids and ray parenchyma.  In figure 12.16 of the book displays a SEM image of pit membrane of tracheid and I wondered if such detail was still intact on one of these samples?

My microscope became ineffective after 100 times magnification to see something this small. What I needed was a scanning electron microscope (SEM).  Yikes! Those cost a lot of money and I am not a research university or million dollar company.  What to do?
Image compliments of ASPEX Corporation

Fortunately, I remembered my friends at ASPEX Corporation in Pennsylvania who scanned a fossil for me earlier in the year.  They have a great FREE program that lets every day people get items imaged with a scanning electron microscope SEM.  The program is call "Send Us Your Sample".  Just follow these steps:

1) Go to the ASPEX Corporation website and print this form.

2) Fill out the form and mail it along with the sample to be scanned:

ASPEX Corporation
Free Sample Submissions
175 Sheffield Dr.
Delmont, PA 15626

 3) Once ASPEX completes the scan, the images will be posted on their website here.

Note: It should take about 2-6 weeks (depending on work load) for the results to post to the ASPEX website.  Submitters will be notified via e-mail.  Be sure to note on the submission form if you want the sample returned.

While at the ASPEX web site, check out their Name That Sample contest with a chance to win a brand new Netbook.