High Resolution Imaging

H&M utilizes two different types of high resolution imaging, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and field emission scanning electron microscopy (FESEM).  Electron microscopy is one of the most used analytical tools since it provides high resolution and depth of field images of a sample surface.   These microscopes also are extremely good at producing detailed images of surface topography.

Both of the microscopes are equipped with an energy dispersive X-ray spectrometer to provide composition information.  This is an extremely useful characterization method for failure analysis, particle identification and reverse engineering purposes.  They are also able to provide elemental mapping and utilize back scattered and secondary electron imaging to provide even more information on the sample.

Main Applications of High Resolution Imaging

  • Device for component failure analysis
  • Characterization of minerals and ores
  • Dimensional analysis
  • Elemental mapping and analysis
  • Process characterization
  • Particle identification and characterization – shape, size, morphology
  • Reverse engineering
  • Forensic analysis



  • Enhanced depth of field over other microscopy methods
  • Quick testing with high resolution imaging
  • Platform supports other characterization techniques such as EDS and EBSD
  • Rapid chemical analysis performed in situ


  • May need to etch planar samples to achieve adequate contrast
  • Samples may require coating to eliminate charging

Detailed Analysis

Elemental Mapping of Unknown Materials

The SEM is a powerful tool that enables for quick imaging and some chemical composition.  This has use in many different areas such as failure analysis, detection of multi-layers of different compositions and more.  An example of this is an unknown material with a range of particles of different compositions.  The image taken by the SEM shows many particles of different sizes and shapes, but the composition of these particles needs to be identified.  Utilizing the EDS attachment on the SEM allows H&M to map out the chemical components.

EDS can perform line scans across each of the individual particles.  Once completed, the software will determine the chemical components that  are in each of the scans.  Since all of the detectors are linked together, the original SEM image can be transformed into an elemental map for ease of viewing.  The figure below shows the completed elemental mapping with each color corresponding to a different composition.


Compositional Matrix through EDS SEM Imaging


SEM Imaging of Impurities for Failure Analysis

Failure analysis of materials is a common practice in both industry and research and development.  A practical first step is to observe the material in a SEM to get a good up close look at the issue.  At that point, a closer examination of the particles and grains can lend itself to possible reasons for the failure.  Knowing the composition and desired particle size distributions of the failed section can provide even more data.  If the particles are too large, it could mean that the material in question did not undergo the required chemical reaction during production, thus leading to additional unwanted stress or strain in the material.  The advantage of observing the material under SEM is that visual evidence of particle size, shapes and interactions can be found.

SEM Imaging used for failure analysis


High Resolution Imaging of Microbes

Technical Specifications of Equipment

  • Signals Detected: Secondary and backscattered electrons and x-rays
  • Elements detected: Boron to Uranium
  • Detection Limits: ~1%
  • Imaging/Mapping: Yes
  • EDS Mapping Resolution: ~1 μm
  • Image Resolution: 1.5 nm @ 30kV

Key Markets Served

  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Semiconductors
  • Coatings and Adhesives
  • Electronics
  • Mining and Metals
  • Aerospace
  • Solar and Lighting
  • Defense
  • Data Storage
  • Personal Care
  • Packaging
  • Life Sciences
  • Law and Litigation