Science Technology
How-To: Operate a Homemade Scanning Electron Microscope

When we last checked in on Ben Krasnow’s homemade SEM, he had just achieved his first successful image with the device. As his latest video shows, the project has come a long way since then. It’s a long clip, by internet standards, at almost 10 minutes, but Ben does a great job of communicating what he’s doing and why, taking us through each step in the imaging process, from loading the sample, through pumping down the vacuum chamber and powering up the electronics, to fine-tuning the image itself. Which looks great, by the way–even after making the trip to Maker Faire and back.

This is only the most recent in a series of truly outstanding projects from Ben. Check out the links below for some of our past coverage of his work, and Ben’s personal blog for new updates.

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2 thoughts on “How-To: Operate a Homemade Scanning Electron Microscope

  1. Building a SEM at home seems to be a really cool project. Have you shown the maximum possible resolution in the video? Given the 50 µm thickness of the copper wires in the video, I’d judge the resolution to be around 10 µm. Optical microscopes can easily get to a resolution of about 1 µm (or a little bit less) limited by the wavelength of the visible light. The main reason for using an electron beam instead of visible light is the smaller wavelength and thus the potential to archieve a higher resolution than an optical microscope can get. So it would be interesting to know which factor is actually limiting the resolution of this microscope.

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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