Scanning electron microscope

Impressive magnification is powering advances in areas such as technology, industry and research. Our scanning electron microscope (SEM) can magnify objects up to 20-30,000 times and can play a key role in these developments.

Evolving technology

We invest in facilities that can benefit the learning outcomes of our students, the research of our staff and the needs of your business or organisation.

There are many things which are so small that the detail cannot be seen by the naked eye or light microscopy. However, in our fast-changing world, we have seen technology evolve, including the capability of electron microscopes, which produce images of the surfaces of exceptionally small objects.

Our scanning electron microscope generates striking high-resolution images by magnifying objects from 20-30,000 times, which is substantially greater than light microscopes. It provides high-resolution, three-dimensional images.

Take a look at how the Scanning Electron Microscope works:

scanning electron microscope

View Scanning Electron Microscope facility at the University of Derby video transcript

How it works

Rather than using light, the SEM scans a beam of electrons over the specimen and detectors collect the electrons which are emitted, converting them into an image of the surface on screen.

Additionally, X-rays emitted from the surface are collected by a different detector and software is able to determine the chemical composition of the sample or feature. This energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS) capability uses Inca Aztec software for elemental composition.

What our scanning electron microscope can provide:

How we can help you

We offer microscopy services to businesses and organisations in the UK and globally. If you'd like to work with us or require further information about how our scanning electron microscope (SEM) could benefit your project, please get in touch by emailing

Available services

Our scanning electron microscope has applications across a number of areas.

  • Understand the mineralogy, formation processes and structure of geological material
  • Investigations of clastic, carbonate and evaporitic rocks and understand weathering and erosion processes
  • Petrological specimens for the oil industry
  • Determine stratigraphic sequences from microfossils
  • Particle location analysis and characterisation
  • Examination of fibres, glass, wear debris, asbestos and air filters
  • Topography of biological samples - animal and plant fossils, bones, insects and plants
  • Identification and examination of biological contaminants
  • Biocompatibility of ceramics - support matrices for cell growth, artificial tissue and implantable biomedical devices
  • Cell and tissue morphology
  • Forensic engineering
  • Failure analysis
  • 3D printing
  • Ceramics
  • Detection of gun shot residue (GSR)
  • Car accident investigation
  • Bullets and cartridge comparison
  • Analysis of skeletal remains
  • Toolmark investigation
  • Counterfeit investigation
  • Paints, prints and ink analysis
  • Identification and analysis of fibres and textiles 

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