By Andrew Liszewski
Playing with microscopes was one of the funner parts of high school biology but the zoom capability on those models was nothing compared to what a scanning electron microscope (or SEM) is capable of. But while some SEMs have given us our first glimpses at the atom their price tags don’t usually fit within a typical high school budget. An Oregon based company called FEI however is hoping to change that with a new type of SEM known as the Phenom that’s about the size of a large desktop computer and comes with a relatively affordable price tag. (When compared to previous models.)
The Phenom is capable of magnifying a specimen from 20X up to 20,000X with an image resolution of 2048×2048 pixels in about 30 seconds. Images are saved on a USB flash drive allowing them to be moved to other computers for more in-depth analysis. The machine and its controls are apparently very user friendly and only requires a few minutes training to produce cool images like the ragweed pollen sample seen above. This means that a facility investing in the Phenom also doesn’t have to pay a skilled operator in order to actually use the device.
Of course the $85,000 (EURO 62,000) price tag isn’t exactly cheap but for smaller research facilities or companies dealing with nanotechnology it’s probably more than worth it.