How sample preparation for SEM helps lab operators produce images faster

By Karl Kersten - November 1, 2018

As a seasoned lab operator, you work with microscopes for the majority of the day, and are very specialized in sample preparation and handling the SEM system. And it’s a responsible job: your output leads to the overall improvement of your company’s products and company results. Therefore, the quality of your work must be outstanding. But at the same time, you want to deliver output quickly. 

This is a dilemma, because the quality of your output decreases when you increase your working speed. And quality isn’t something you’re willing to compromise on.

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How to deliver the same kind of quality in less time

So, what can you do to deliver the same kind of quality in less time? You could ask for new equipment and hires, but that isn’t a real solution to your problem. This one is: improving your working process.

Ironically, you can work faster by taking more time. Time to prepare, to be more specific. They don’t say ‘preparation is half the battle’ for nothing. 

Think about it: if you’re very busy, at what phase of your working process do you usually take a shortcut? While you’re preparing your samples, right? Try to keep this in mind: never take shortcuts — they take too long.

We believe that a significant portion of your time should be invested in the preparation of your samples. It might even account for as much time as the actual processing itself.

Sample preparation for SEM

Increase sample preparation time

And this may feel a little counter-intuitive. But what we know from experience is: the lack of preparing can backfire on you. Have you ever had to re-analyze a sample, because the image quality was poor?

If you have, you know insufficient preparation caused this. And that’s why we think laying the groundwork is so important. As a matter of fact, we have spoken with several experienced SEM operators like yourself — and the majority of them clearly emphasized the importance of proper preparation.

Plus, the actions you should (or shouldn’t) take to prepare your samples aren't overly complicated. They’re actually pretty straightforward.

For example: make sure your samples are dry. Wet samples outgas under vacuum, which can cause imaging problems. The solution: freeze the samples with a temperature controlled sample holder.

SEM sample preparation

This example is just one of many preparation tips you could put to good use. And we’re sure you’d like to hear about the others as well. So, to set you up with proper sample preparation, we wrote a “Sample Preparations Tips” guide. It will help you deliver quality output in a short timeframe. It even shows you how to neatly prepare a sample — step by step.

Quickly become a sample preparation expert — and download the guide now:


About the author

Karl Kersten is head of the Thermo Scientific Phenom Desktop SEM Application Team at Thermo Fisher Scientific. He is passionate about the Phenom Desktop SEM product and likes converting customer requirements into product or feature specifications so customers can achieve their goals.

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