Friday, February 26, 2010

FREE Scanning Electron Microscope Imaging from ASPEX

Yes, you read the title correctly.  ASPEX Corporation of Delmont, Pennsylvania is offering the public the chance to have an item imaged with their Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM).

Image compliments of ASPEX Corporation

According to their literature, an optical microscope achieves a usable image at magnification of 100 times and can go up to 1000 times (20 micrometers).  The ASPEX Personal Scanning Electron Microscope can image an object to 25 nanometers (nm) and has a scanning range of 100 nm to 5 mm.  They go on to stress the resolution is not the only variable to consider when analyzing a specimen.  SEMs provide a more depth-of-field than optical microscopes.

There are a wide range of applications SEMs can be used for and not just in the research laboratory.  ASPEX makes an application for forensics (e.g. like a real world CSI) specifically Gunshot Residue (GSR) analysis.  Other applications that can take advantage of SEM analysis: industrial production quality control, metal quality measurements, aerospace/defense maintenance prediction, and the pharmaceutical production.

All and all this is a great opportunity for amateur paleontologists.  I keep wondering what items would I like to see: foraminifera, scolecodont tooth, ridge in cornulite tube, small fluorite crystals, pyrite crystal, growth lines on modern snail shell, crinoid stem segment or a pore of a bryozoan.  So many possibilities in the microscopic world to explore!

One needs to remember that unlike optical microscopes, SEMs image in grayscale so no color output.

Well, I encourage those interested in exploring this generous offer made by ASPEX Corporation and check out the images already displayed at their website.

How to Participate in the "Send Us Your Sample" Campaign

1. Download and print this form from the ASPEX website.

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 has completed the scan, the images and report will be posted on ASPEX's website here.

Note: It should take about 2 weeks [UPDATE: 05/17/2010 I received the results from the fossil of an Ordovician Period worm tube.  See the results at this post.] for the results to post to the ASPEX website, and the submitters will be notified via e-mail. If you want your sample returned, please say so on the submission form.

Remember to follow common sense on sending material to be scanned and also follow all postal regulations for shipping specimens through the mail.

Learn more about ASPEX Corporations Scanning Electron Microscopes by watching this video: