Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM)

The Zeiss Sigma 300 Field Emission Gun Scanning Electron Microscope (FEG-SEM) enables high resolution imaging of biological and biomaterial samples, providing surface structural, topographical information, in addition to compositional contrast. The Sigma 300 offers a range of features for easy acquisition of high quality SEM micrographs. Beam reactive samples can be imaged at low accelerating voltage without sacrificing resolution. There are four detectors available: two secondary electron detectors, a backscattered electron detector for elemental contrast (ie; of immunogold particles on surfaces) and a Scanning Transmission Electron Microscopy (STEM) detector for screening up to 12 TEM grids at a time.


  • Accelerating voltage: 0.02 kV to 30 kV
  • Resolution: 1.2 nm (at 15 kV), 2.2 nm (at 1 kV)
  • Magnification 10x to 1,000,000x
  • Schottky Thermal Field Emitter electron source
  • Everhart-Thornley and Inlens secondary electron detectors
  • High Definition Backscattered detector
  • STEM detector for imaging ultrathin samples on TEM grids
  • Chamber scope CCD camera
  • 5-axis motorised Cartesian stage
  • Frame size: up to 3072 x 2304 pixels


  • Detailed characterisation of mutant phentoypes of whole organisms (eg: HeLa cells, Drosphilia, C. elegans and Arabidopsis)
  • Examination of particulate samples (eg: pollen, powder, magnetic microparticles) and polymers
  • Characterisation of the effect of drugs on mammalian culture cells etc
  • Observation of cells grown on artificial material (eg: scaffolds)

Recommended reading:

  • Carr, K.E., 1971. Applications of scanning electron microscopy in biology. International review of cytology, 30, pp.183-255.
  • Schatten, H. and Pawley, J.B. eds., 2008. Biological low-voltage scanning electron microscopy. New York: Springer.
  • Bozzola, J.J. and Russell, L.D., 1999. Electron microscopy: principles and techniques for biologists. Jones & Bartlett Learning.
  • Hayat, M.A., 1978. Introduction to biological scanning electron microscopy. University Park Press.

Selected recent publications from the Dunn School EM Facility (SEM):

  • Costello, I., Nowotschin, S., Sun, X., Mould, A.W., Hadjantonakis, A.K., Bikoff, E.K. and Robertson, E.J., 2015. Lhx1 functions together with Otx2, Foxa2, and Ldb1 to govern anterior mesendoderm, node, and midline development. Genes & Development, 29(20), pp.2108-2122.
  • W├Ârmann, M.E., Horien, C.L., Johnson, E., Liu, G., Aho, E., Tang, C.M. and Exley, R.M., 2016. Neisseria cinerea isolates can adhere to human epithelial cells by type IV pilus-independent mechanisms. Microbiology, 162(3), pp.487-502.

Example images:

example SEM image1 example SEM image2 example SEM image3