Electron microscopy (EM) permits us to observe a people exponentially smaller than the one we have the right to see v our unaided eyes or also with the acquainted light microscope. Electron microscopy uses electrons to “see” little objects in the same method that irradiate beams let united state observe our surroundings or objects in a light microscope. Through EM, we have the right to look at the feather-like scale of an insect, the internal structures the a cell, individual proteins or also individual atoms in a metal alloy.

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TEM vs SEM Comparison

The two most common varieties of electron microscopes room transmission (TEM) and also scanning (SEM) systems, but the differences between these two instruments can be fairly nuanced. Below we expect to carry out a basic primer for people looking to obtain started through this an effective technique.

Scanning Electron microscopic lense (SEM)

Imagine you room in a dark room v a weak flashlight. To discover your surroundings, you can sweep the light throughout the room, much like someone analysis a book: left to right and also top come bottom. SEM features similarly, sweeping the electron beam throughout the sample and recording the electrons the bounce back. This technique allows girlfriend to watch the surface of just around any sample, from commercial metals to geology samples to biological specimens prefer spores, insects, and cells. When SEM cannot see functions to the same level of information as TEM, the is lot faster, much less restrictive, and can periodically be performed with limited or no sample preparation.

Transmission Electron microscopic lense (TEM)

When a movie dram in the theater, irradiate is sent through picture on a film. As the beam of light passes through, that is modification by the image and the components of the film room then displayed. TEM works in the same way but through electrons, pass through, or transmitting, an ultrathin sample to a detector below. TEM enables you to observe details as small as individual atoms, providing unprecedented level of structural info at the highest possible resolution. Together it goes v objects the can also give friend information around internal structures, which SEM cannot provide. TEM is, however, minimal to samples that deserve to be thin enough to let electrons pass v them. This thinning procedure is technically difficult and requires added tools to perform.


SEM (left) and TEM (right) images of bacteria. Conversely, SEM shows countless bacteria top top a surface ar (green), the TEM photo shows the interior structure the a single bacterium.

Overall, TEM offers unparalleled detail however can only be offered on a limited range of specimens and also tends come be more demanding 보다 SEM. It is necessary to note that progressed techniques such as cryo-EM, a method which looks in ~ typically biological specimen in a vitrified, amorphous state, have expanded the capabilities of TEM significantly. In particular, biomedical and pharmaceutical research study may advantage from the molecular and also cellular details that deserve to be revealed by cryo-EM.

In general, if you must look in ~ a relatively big area and also only require surface details, SEM is ideal. If friend need inner details of tiny samples in ~ near-atomic resolution, TEM will certainly be necessary.

To learn more about the structures of EM, please review our Introduction come Electron Microscopy guide. Subscribe now come receive brand-new Accelerating Microscopy write-ups straight to your inbox.

Alex Ilitchev, PhD, is a clinical Content Writer in ~ Thermo Fisher Scientific.

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